Spokes of Generosity: University of Tennessee Extension spreads Christmas cheer with bike-building project

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture Extension employees recently took on a special holiday service project in the spirit of Christmas charity, going beyond their usual roles as educators and advisers.

What started as a leadership development meeting for members of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture Extension has snowballed into something much bigger ahead of the Christmas season. Instead, agents, specialists, and staff came together for a festive workshop to build and deliver brand-new bicycles for children in need.

The clanking of wrenches set the tone of the event as the dedicated team of ag industry workers embraced their inner elves, assembling the bikes with care.

“Luckily, we don’t have to have torque wrenches and welders,” said Kenny Herndon, a skilled mechanic from Carroll County, who found joy in contributing his expertise to the project. While he was tempted to bring along his entire tool kit, he appreciated the simplicity of the heartwarming task.

Underlying this act of kindness was a valuable lesson in volunteerism. UT Extension agents spoke to 4-Hers about the importance of donating time and then demonstrated this principle through their own actions. The bike-building initiative was not just about assembling wheels but about creating a positive impact on the Memphis community.

“We’re in the Volunteer State, so we’re part of volunteerism, and our agents on a daily basis, and our specialists volunteer throughout their local communities, so this is a great opportunity for us to continue that volunteer spirit,” said UT Extension Agent Jerry Lamb.

The historic Peabody Hotel in Memphis served as the gathering place at the heart of this charitable endeavor, a project part of the Tennessee Extension Leadership Academy’s staff development program. While the hotel’s famous family of ducks provided entertainment for the group, participants said they were little help in terms of bike assembly. UT Extension agents turned the hotel into the North Pole of Shelby County. Working tirelessly on an assembly line, they completed ten bikes within an hour.

“They’re learning about their personal strengths, how to apply it within a team scenario to lead within the organization,” said Brigitte Passman.

The true magic unfolded as the bikes were delivered to Knowledge Quest, a Memphis organization dedicated to expanding minds and transforming lives. The bikes, a surprise for ten selected students based on their attendance, promised to bring smiles and joy.

“It’s going to be a surprise to the 10 students that were selected, but they were selected based on their attendance here,” said Latasha Eichols from Knowledge Quest, expressing her gratitude to the group. “I, too, am waiting to see their smiling faces.”

With Christmas approaching, these UT Extension agents became Santa’s little helpers, ensuring that some kids would pedal into the holidays on their own set of wheels.

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