Prisoners Build Bikes To Help Local Foster Children

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A local woman is making sure that foster children in Central Ohio get a new bike for Christmas, and she’s doing it with the help of inmates.

“Santa Land” can now be found at the Pickaway County jail where more than 1,000 bikes are being built.

The untraditional workshop features “elves” behind bars. Joe Washington is serving 20 years to life on a murder charge. He's paying it back while paying it forward.

“When we was out there, we took so much out of society, and this is our way of giving back,” said Washington.

The inmates assemble the bikes that are going to foster children this holiday season.

“We work generally from 8 in the morning to 8:30 at night, every day,” added Washington.

The inmate volunteer help was called in by program founder Kate Koch, The Bike Lady. 

She worked out a deal to buy bike parts at a discount price, and once they're put together, she can help make Christmas in foster care a little brighter.

“It's very difficult to be in foster care. Your life is completely turned upside-down and you miss out on a lot of things that would be part of a normal childhood. To give a child a new bike for Christmas, it gives these kids a chance to be like any other kid and I think that's important,” said Koch.

While in jail, the prisoners raised around $4,000 to help pay for parts that are on the bikes.  In the seven years of her program, Kate has pulled in about $300,000 for the program.

Every dollar and volunteer hour pays off when a foster child takes their first ride.

Pickaway County is one of two dozen counties that the program now helps.