Pedaling it forward: Putnam County man gives back restored bicycles to those in need

HENNEPIN — For the past year, Mark Hamilton has spent his free time fixing up and restoring bicycles to give back to those who may never had gotten the opportunity to own one.

Hamilton got started on this hobby through the Putnam County Rotary Club. He’s always had a knack for restoring antiques and decided to use his talent restoring broken bicycles that still had a lot of life in them. He started working with The Bike Place in Princeton which has donated many bicycle parts to assist in his endeavors.

In just a short time, Hamilton has given away hundreds of bicycles and has received acknowledgements from several schools, communities and organizations throughout Bureau and Putnam counties including Hall High School, Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley, Putnam County Food Pantry, village of Granville, Freedom House, Peru Elementary School, city of Spring Valley, Cops 4 Cancer, Putnam County High School, The Perfectly Flawed Foundation, Princeton Police and the village of McNabb.

Most recently, Hamilton’s charitable endeavors reached a much further distance. Through his own network, Ms. Illinois World International Tiffany Kory, out of Chicago, reached out to Hamilton and asked if he’d donate bikes to an event in Chicago that will serve families in need.

Of course, Hamilton couldn’t turn down the offer. Last Friday, Kory drove from Chicago to Hennepin with a large flatbed trailer in tow to pick up the first round of bikes Hamilton has been working on for the event, which is set for next month. The first load consisted of 32 bikes, but Kory has plans to come back for more. The plan is to give away between 50 and 60 bicycles for the event. Kory said these will be given to children who otherwise would never have the opportunity to own a bicycle.

Hamilton was happy to have been asked to help. He said restoring things is just something he likes to do. He’s spent the entire winter putting bikes back together again. He’s even becoming well known throughout the Putnam County communities as the man to go to if you need a newly restored bike or perhaps just need a bicycle repair. With the weather warming up, he’s said the requests are picking up for the season, but he’s happy to see all the interest is bicycle riding. He said often times he just leaves the bikes he’s restored outside of the shop he works out of and people swing by to see what he has on hand.

Goldie Rapp

Goldie Rapp is the Associate Editor of the Bureau County Republican and Putnam County Record. She has worked for Shaw Media since 2013.