Newton bike shop continues cycle of holiday giving

Dec. 9—Bicycles don't fit comfortably under the Christmas tree, and they're probably a bit cumbersome for ol' Santa Claus to haul in his sleigh. Luckily, there are folks like Joe Urias, Russ Leix and the volunteers of St. Nick's Christmas Club who are more than happy to transport bikes to a few lucky families this holiday season.

As owner of Mojo Cycling, Urias has been giving away bicycles to the club for the past nine years or so. Oftentimes the bikes arrive to his downtown Newton shop in disrepair or just aren't utilized as often as they once were. So, Urias fixes them up and donates them to St. Nick's volunteers, who disperse the bikes.

"We've got a very giving community," Urias said. "I think the first year I did it was 2012, and we've been doing this ever since. I've been giving seven or eight bikes away every year. This year I've got more bikes downstairs. Get 'em out. Fix 'em up. Get 'em back into the community. And that's awesome."

Mojo Cycling has collected 14 bicycles for the St. Nick's Christmas Club this year.

Urias has been operating his business for almost 12 years. The communities of Jasper County, he said, have supported him since the day he opened shop. Giving away newly repaired bicycles to the community is his way of showing appreciation to the people who support him.

"They're the ones who make me who I am today. So to give back and put money into the bikes and make sure they get back into the hands of the kids is nothing. What goes around comes around," Urias said. "And I like doing it, too. It's good for the kids. It's good for everybody."

St. Nick's Christmas Club was formed in the 1980s at the old Manhattan bar in Newton as a way to make sure children in Jasper County can celebrate the holidays. The club — which has served up to 600 kids in years past — facilitates the distribution of Christmas gifts to "adopted" families.

Jessica Lowe Vokes, president of St. Nick's Christmas Club, said bikes are always a wish list item for kids in the program, but they can be cost-prohibitive.

"With this help we can oftentimes fill a bike request," she said. "He has done this for many years taking in bikes, donating the labor to fix them up and helping St. Nick's. When a parent is stuffing a bike into their car on distribution day and crying because they would otherwise not be able to give a bike is pretty amazing."

Russ Leix has been volunteering for St. Nick's Christmas Club alongside his wife for about 20 years. Leix said it's all about ensuring kids get a Christmas. The group is good at doing just that. But Leix also believes the community plays a big part, too. To him, Newton is a "very caring community."

Leix said, "I don't care what anybody says or all the bad news that you might see about Newton going on. When you ask them to donate, people donate. We've always had that fear that we were going to run out of funds, but when we ask for donations people come in and say, 'These kids have to have a good Christmas.'"

And they do. Volunteers at St. Nick's Christmas Club and other giving members of the community make sure of it.

Urias added, "That's the beauty of the community coming together."

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or