Smiles flashed all around as people lined up to receive bicycles on the evening of Tuesday, May 29 outside the Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota shop in south Fargo. Thanks to the annual Team Boaz bike giveaway, around 100 New American families became proud new owners of bikes that were brand-new to them. Kids test-rode their smaller bicycles around the parking lot while their parents watched, and adults contemplated the bikes that would best be able to get them to work the next day.
Sayan and Aljun, young men who had immigrated from Bhutan to Fargo, were two such people. Aljun had received a bike from Project Boaz at last year’s giveaway, and this year was Sayan’s turn. With Aljun as a translator, Sayan explained that he would be using the bike he received to go to work.
“Riding a bike to work is more fun,” Sayan said. “It’s easier to get there and it’s comfortable.”
Many New Americans who arrive in Fargo do not have easy access to transportation, a fact that makes getting around and completing tasks necessary to live difficult. It becomes troublesome and time-consuming to go to medical appointments, pick up groceries, and get to work.
As people lined up to try out their bikes, volunteers got the vehicles ready, making sure the tires were all full and that everything was working well mechanically. Matching the right bike to the right person could take a little time, and the project was huge in scale—Team Boaz collected bikes all year round, with the main push beginning in March, and relied on bike fundraisers, volunteer-run bicycle repair nights, as well as contributions of abandoned bikes from organizations like the Fargo Police, Scheels, and Concordia College. Volunteers put a lot of time and energy into the operation, but the life-changing outcomes of this made everything worth it.
Eileen and her daughter Ellie were two of these dedicated volunteers. They, along with Eileen’s husband, Ken, are members of the Fargo-Moorhead Salem Free Evangelical Church, who, along with Bethel Evangelical Free Church in Fargo and Olivet Lutheran Church in Fargo, organized the project. Eileen has been volunteering for many years.
“Team Boaz is helping these New Americans get a good start in the community,” Eileen said. “These bikes are a way to get to their job, because sometimes busing doesn’t work with their schedule.”
Eileen also spoke of the impact these bikes have on New American kids.
“Each year we see the kids who get the bikes with big smiles on their faces,” Eileen said. “It’s just amazing to see their excitement, and the adults too—everyone’s really appreciative.”
A sizable number of bike recipients included children. Mohamed, a Fargo resident originally from Somalia, had brought his young son to get a bike. When asked what his son will use the bike for, Mohamed said simply, “To have fun. As long as he’s having fun.”
Whether the bikes are used to have fun or to get to work, Team Boaz’s project is an integral part of the community and an important way to serve New Americans who make their homes in Fargo. As kids excitedly pedaled their bikes around the parking lot as if they’d owned them all their lives, they served as a reminder that transportation should not be an issue—everyone deserves to feel at home here.
The name “Team Boaz” comes from the man Boaz from the Bible. Boaz was a wealthy landowner who showed God’s love to others, most notably through his kindness to Ruth, his relative. When he heard of her family’s hardships, he invited them to eat with him. Team Boaz strives to do the same and to help those around them, giving what they can for others.
– Compiled by Michelle Foster, LSSND Communications.