Maple Grove Nurse Copes with Pandemic By Collecting Bikes for Kids in Need
Deb Fortner is a nurse and says she coped with the pandemic by collecting more than one thousand bikes from Facebook and garage sales that will be donated to Free Bikes 4 Kidz Minnesota. She started volunteering for the organization more than a decade ago.
“It took me like five years to figure out, hey I could be collecting bikes,” said Fortner.
Since then Fortner has been collecting bikes for six years. Usually she collects hundreds, but this year she topped one thousand.
“Deb is truly amazing, I mean there’s nobody that comes close to getting a thousand bikes like Deb,” said John Pappenfus, from Allina Health.
Allina Health volunteers came out to help transport the bikes to Free Bikes 4 Kidz warehouse on Friday and Saturday.
She’s got bikes of all sizes and in all conditions. Fortner collects them with her husband, Tom, over the course of the year and stores them at their Maple Grove property.
“It was something you could focus on that was positive and putting forth energy to make a difference,” said Fornter. “You kind of get hooked on it when you see the opportunity and when the kids come pick out the bikes.”
Fortner is also a behavioral health nurse at Unity Hospital. As a front line worker, Fortner felt the stress of the pandemic more than most.
Collecting the bikes became almost therapeutic.
“It was actually a greater help, cause it was something you could focus on that was positive and putting forth energy to make a difference,” said Fortner.
Her philanthropy also inspired others. A new neighbor noticed the collection of bikes.
“We were just driving by and I was like whoa, I couldn’t believe it,” said Allison Friese.
So, Allison and her husband went home to get their daughter Evelyn’s old bike and add it to the pile.
“This is so wonderful that they take the time out to collect these bikes and give to kids who can’t afford bike or find bikes and now with COVID it’s hard to find bikes and there will be lots of happy kids who will receive these,” said Friese.