WeissCrax: Assembly required for Santa’s cause

Tom Reed, Unity Shoppe Executive Director & Bryan Uhrig, local reat estate agent

Despite the occasional wet sprinkles, all the stars came out.

And not just any stars.

Real stars.

As in ‘community rock stars’ a la …

Hamburger magnates … tire kings … keeping-the-peace officers … big time developers … USA military … fire fighter studs … ‘Local Heroes’ … Bishop HS leadership kids … assorted bankers & other financial folks … elected public officials … real estate agents … real PALS (Police Activities League) … small business owners … BIG business peeps … customer service providers … students of all ages.

Our leaders of tommorow make things brighter today.

"Elves" from Vandenberg Air Force Base

You get the picture.

Over 600 strong, if anyone’s counting …

And all these ‘little elves’ standing tall — working hard together, side-by-side, behind-these-incredible-scenes to make the holidays really, really bright.

And making dreams come true.

Just like Santa and real elves do!

Today is all about Kids and Bikes, a local 501c3 organization with zero paid staffers.

The tandem team of Cathleen & Lou Ventura makes special holiday memories for kids.

Beautiful bikes of all colors, sizes are taking shape at the Annual Kids and Bikes ‘build’ at the expansive Goleta Rancho Embarkadero home of K&B Founder & Chief Cheerleader, Lou Ventura.

“Every kid needs a bike,” sez ‘Sweet Lou,’ amongst all the controlled chaos surrounding seemingly hundreds of plastic folding tables; variety of tools – wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers; upside bike frames on impromptu assembly lines in the front yard … out back … over in the side yard … in the garage.

Basically everywhere.

It’s the one day, very local version of Santa’s Workshop at The North Pole…

Event tho it’s actually a year-round effort for Ventura and his amazingly tolerant and totally awesome wife, Cathleen – seen doing final testing before handing the bikes off for temporary parking on the tennis court.

For them, it’s all a labor of love….

According to its website:

Kids And Bikes Foundation began for the purpose of providing new bicycles to the children of families who had fallen on hard times. The idea was simple – get the members of Goleta Valley and Santa Barbara to donate money for bicycles. Bikes would be purchased at cost and assembled by volunteers to provide a gift to those children who would otherwise go without. We believe that everybody remembers their first bike and we wanted to be part of that memory.

What started with 30 bikes donated in 2004; has grown exponentially to nearly 800 bikes in 2010 for other local non-profits, such as The Unity Shoppe, St. Vincent’s, Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, Transition House, The Dream Foundation and many more …

Nearly 800 bikes were donated this holiday season.

Helmets too, provided gratis with each bike, courtesy of City & County of Santa Barbara fire fighters.

The bikes are packed in parts inside individual cardboard boxes and stored in two huge shipping containers in Ventura’s backyard – and now is when and here is where ‘the rubber meets the road’ with everyone kicking the ‘you-know-what’ outta ‘assembly not included’ lingo!!

And in case you are wondering – how do you feed 600+ very hungry elves??

“The food just keeps flying in,” sez Sweet Lou. It’s all donated and delivered. An Italian restaurant just dropped a bunch of pasta stuff! Plus, some volunteers even bring cookies or cakes. You name it …

Somehow it all works out.”

And for Ventura – it’s all a matter of ‘heart’ and ‘community’ in making lifetime holiday memories happen for kids, who might not otherwise have them happen.

Yes, it’s The Magic of Christmas and with so many ‘stars’ shining bright, it’s so easy ‘to believe’…

'Local Hero' John Dixon teams with bike PALS