Community rallies after rehab center’s bikes stolen
Response for a local rehabilitation facility soared following the theft of several bicycles that participants depend on to get to work each day.
Whitney Strickland, chairman of the board for the Deer Park rehabilitation center The Wheelhouse, said that 15 bikes were stolen from the facility in mid-March. The Wheelhouse has operated since 1952, focusing on helping men recover from addiction. Part of the program includes helping the participants find local employment, and for most of them, getting to work depends on those bicycles.
“It had to be several young people that took them,” he said. “In the middle of the night, some people came up with a truck cut the locks on them and just drove off with them. But what they don’t understand is that a lot of our guys work around here. They need those bikes to get to work.”
Police are seeking public help for leads on the case.
After hearing about the missing bicycles, the community came out in full force to support the longtime center.
“The police officer who came out, officer Sean Jackson, reached out to Bay Area Cycling, and they donated some bicycles and officer Jackson even donated his own bicycle,” Strickland said. “It was posted on Facebook, and the community really reached out to help.”
Bicycles started coming in from local businesses, anonymous donors and groups who understood the importance the bikes for the group.
“Ken’s Restaurant donated a few; some of our guys work there so that meant a lot,” Strickland said. “Cernocesek Wrecker donated a few, Bay Area Cycling, of course, and so many people from the community donated bikes. We have 12 now, so we’re good. And that’s an incredible feeling.”
The Wheelhouse’s program works by having men agree to the terms of the program and move into the house, Strickland said.
“When the guys come into the house, they’ve either just quit using drugs or alcohol or we’re getting there. For the first 30 days, they have to agree to a drying out period,” he said. “Basically. For 30 days, there’s no phone, internet, television, newspaper or radio - nothing - and they start their 12-step program. They pick a sponsor and are monitored all the time. After they get through 30 days, the go to a 90-days house, basically a three-quarter house, and they start going out and looking for a job. Once they find one, they usually get there by bicycle. We average about 35 men in the house and our success rate is somewhere between the 60 to 70 percent range, which is pretty dang good.”
While they don’t need more bicycles now because of the overwhelming response from the community, Strickland said there are still opportunities to help. The organization is hosting a golf tournament at Battleground Golf Course in Deer Park on May 4. Visit www.thewheelhouse.com for ways to help or become involved.
“I want the community to know how grateful we are,” Strickland said. “We’d just like to give a huge thank-you to them. They can’t imagine how much that helps our guys or know how essential it is when they’re trying to go through that transition that they’re able to go out and work.”
Anyone with information about the theft of the bikes may call the police department at 281-478-2000.