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Patchogue church donates bikes to carless

Aurea Montero, left, of Patchogue, and the Rev.

Aurea Montero, left, of Patchogue, and the Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter, who spearheaded the one-day bike giveaway, watches as David Santos adjusts the seat on her new bicycle at the Congregational Church of Patchogue in Patchogue. (April 2, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Ed Betz

The line formed behind Congregational Church of Patchogue before 8 a.m. Saturday: men and women chatting in English and Spanish, some greeting familiar faces from the Wednesday night soup kitchen.

Joselyn Bishop and José Luis Vazquez stood among them, smiling in the sunlight, waiting to be ushered into a gymnasium full of bicycles.

Workers Without Wheels -- a one-day bike giveaway -- was the first event of its kind at this church, and the brainchild of the Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter. His idea: Find bicycles gathering dust in Long Island garages and give them to workers who can't get a license because of their immigration status, or for whom the cost of driving is simply too steep.

"We're walkers," said Vazquez, 34. "We're pretty much scraping by."

Together, he and Bishop walk 30 minutes to the Taco Bell where they each work three or four nights a week. She often waits for him as late as 2 a.m. so she doesn't have to walk home alone.

Ahead of them in line stood Steve Jacoby, 49, of Shirley, who every morning walks 15 minutes to the nearest bus stop, catches one bus, then another, and walks 20 minutes more to the senior nutrition center in Bellport, where he is a custodian. Door to door, the trip takes two hours.

"Wow!" Jacoby said as he entered the gym.

A rainbow of bicycles, more than 80 new and used, stretched across the floor. Amid the whir of an air compressor, volunteers and Boy Scouts adjusted seats and installed kick stands.

Jacoby wheeled out an aluminum commuter bike. Wolter had collected $7,000 in cash donations and purchased 40 of them at a steep discount from Carl Hart Cycles in Middle Island.

A little later, Vazquez and his girlfriend wheeled out two more. Tears welled in Bishop's eyes.

"It makes my heart glad," she said. "I'm happy for everyone."

Jorge Hernandez and Miguel Martins arrived about 11 a.m. A few used bikes remained. After quick tuneups, the construction workers rolled out a mountain bike and a road bike.

"Thanks to God, they've given us this help to be able to survive here," Martins said.

They hopped on their new rides, took a spin around the parking lot and whizzed away.

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