The first week of the fall semester at Pittsburg State University can be hectic for just about everyone, but are busier than Don Smith.
For the past 32 years, Smith, a minister with Campus Christians, has been repairing and loaning donated bicycles to international students. Smith said has been working hard in his office/shop to meet the sudden uptick in demand since new international students began arriving, well ahead of the first day of classes.
“I’ve loaned out 70 bikes since the first of July and I’ve got a waiting list of 50 right now,” Smith said.
Smith said he began his bicycle loan program on a small scale as a response to a particular need that international students had.
“They’re coming from another country, so they can’t bring their own bikes,” Smith said. “And there is limited transportation for them in Pittsburg.”
The program has grown almost every year, since.
Students who check out a bicycle pay a $35 deposit, which they get back when they return the bicycle. Smith said most bikes eventually come back, but a certain percentage never return, meaning the deposit is forfeited. That money helps defray the cost of parts and tires.
Currently, Smith said, he has a total of 200-250 bicycles out on loan. Over the years, he estimates, he has sent out more than 2,000.
Smith said the bicycle loan program sends a positive message to students around the world.
“I would like Pittsburg State University to be the most welcoming place in the nation,” Smith said. “I would like for people around the world to know how friendly this university and this community is.”
He said the program is also a tangible expression of his faith.
“I want God to be honored in everything I do and for people to know He loves them,” Smith said.
In 2012, Pittsburg State honored Smith with its Ralf J. Thomas Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes friends of the university for extraordinary volunteer service to the university and its students.
Smith said donations of used bicycles are always welcome. Anyone interested in donating a bicycle may contact Smith at 417-529-6470 or they may drop bicycles off at Campus Christians, 213 E. Williams.
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