NORTH SHORE — A bike for a house doesn’t sound like a fair exchange.
Don’t worry, no one ended up homeless, if marginally more mobile.
The plan was dreamed up by a couple of realtors who wanted to donate a bicycle to a needy child for every house sale they made.
“We decided last December to have some kind of community giving program,” said Alexis Surpitski-MacIntyre, co-owner with Byron Lane of 1 ° North Real Estate in Newburyport.
“We kept thinking about where we could make an impact and we wanted it to be local,” she said.
After tossing around ideas, the team hit upon the concept of a child’s bicycle for a seven to 12 year old for every closing.
“We have great memories of riding our bikes around the North Shore,” said Surpitski-MacIntyre, an Ipswich resident. “Every kid deserves to have that experience.”
Surpitski-MacIntyre said a big part of their plan’s appeal was that parents would be able to surprise their kids with a big present at Christmas.
As the year progressed and houses were sold, the bike fund began to build.
There was still one problem. “We had no idea in August how we would do it,” Surpitski-MacIntyre laughed.
Kate Delgiacco, who started working at 1° North this year, got on the case and contacted the Community Giving Tree.
Logistics are now being handled by that group, which is based in Boxford and helps low-income families with basic necessities.
Although founder and executive director Leslie Levenson was unsure at first how the bike idea would work, she put the word out among social workers to see if there was any interest.
“I didn’t really know if there would be a lot of interest,” Levenson said.
Her doubts were based in large part on where the families live. They are mostly in urban areas like Lynn and Salem, and have little space to store bikes, she thought.
But the Community Giving Tree has a wide network — 100 different organizations — and Levenson sent an email blast asking social workers to sign up for one, two or three bikes.
“That was a mistake,” she laughed.
They were flooded with requests. In all, 300 came in for the 100 bicycles collected.
Levenson said some of the stories told were heartbreaking. A little girl and her family had been forced out of their previous home and she had to leave her bicycle behind.
Two brothers now in foster care wanted bikes so they could continue to go to their old school.
And another kid wanted a bike because his old one had been stolen.
As the realtors worked on their plan throughout the year, more logistical problems then began to present themselves.
Some way had to be found how to allocate the available bikes. Levenson said that was taken care of with a lottery yesterday, Dec. 1.
Meanwhile, Kate and Craig Delgiacco were furiously assembling the cycles in their garage in Haverhill.
Those will be kept at a warehouse in Middleton until they are ready to be given out.
U-Haul has donated a truck to help bring the bicycles to the warehouse Dec. 15, Surpitski-MacIntyre said.
The social workers will then distribute the bikes to their clients before Christmas.
Fairway Mortgage also contributed to the effort.
And, Levenson said her network pointed out one important detail that was taken care of by Fidelity Investments.
They donated helmets to protect the little heads.
Levenson said she was very pleased with the first-time operation. “I’m very excited to see the smiles on everybody’s faces,” she said.