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Savage Police build new bicycles for local families

Savage families who haven’t been able to buy their children bicycles or have had theirs stolen could receive a phone call this summer letting them know the Savage Police Department has a brand-new one ready for them.

On Tuesday, members of the department joined law enforcement agencies from around the metro to build bikes at Thomson Reuter’s seventh annual Build-a-Bike event. It’s the department’s second year participating.

Each year, Thomson Reuter’s in Eagan invites departments from around the metro to assemble bikes to take home for area kids. To date, the program’s rolled out 700 bikes for local kids.

So far, eight families have received the call in Savage, and the department this week took home nine more bikes.

Ken Essay, principal at Harriet Bishop Elementary, witnessed the excitement firsthand when Savage Police stopped by this spring to give two students their first bikes. He said it’s a classic moment in childhood, not unlike a 16-year-old being handed the keys for the first time.

“They cannot wait to get on that bike — they just want to take it on that first trip around our campus,” he said. “It’s creating freedom for our young people and opportunity for our young people.”

Bikes were also donated to students at M.W. Savage and Red Tail Ridge elementary schools.

Savage Police Crime Prevention Specialist Georgeanne Freeman reaches out to local schools, where staff members help identify a few students who don’t have bikes of their own.

Essay said one of the most rewarding aspects of the program is calling parents to tell them about the opportunity.

“It’s greater than just the student,” Essay said. “It’s the impact it has on the entire family unit, and that’s the greater purpose.”

Maura Coenen, a project manager at Thomson Reuters, started the event seven years ago after she got the idea at a sales event she attended in Florida. The Thomson Reuters in Virginia will host their first Build-a-Bike event next month, and Coenen said she hopes to continue growing the program.

Jeanette Portzer, vice president of website delivery with Find Law, one of Thomson Reuters’ businesses, said employees are given 16 hours of paid volunteer time each year to encourage community building events like Build-a-Bike.

Law enforcement and Thomson Reuters employees huddled in small groups puzzling over the instruction manual and box of bike parts. Often they’d flag down Eric’s Bikes employees, who set up the bike assembly room, for help.

Mark McCubbin, event and outreach manager at Eric’s Bikes, said Thomson Reuters purchases the bikes at a discount. He said the most rewarding aspect of the program is staying in touch with police departments and hearing stories about where the bicycles go.

The program also provides bikes for children who’ve had theirs stolen.

Last year, two siblings in Savage had their bikes stolen, for example. A month later, Freeman was looking for a home for bikes the department got from its first time participating in Build-a-Bike.

She reached out to their mother over email and learned the kids hadn’t yet gotten replacements.

“When they got home, the bikes were there,” Freeman said.