There is always an opportunity in this world to reach beyond one’s own needs and take action to meet the needs of others.
Such is the case with Heather Parris, who found a calling where she could help others in a unique and useful way by providing free bicycles for those needing transportation but who cannot afford it, especially those deemed as “homeless.”
Her creation is called “Chain Reaction,” providing the homeless in the Greater Sedona Area a means of transportation where they could peddle their way to various jobs in surrounding communities without having to fret about transportation costs.
“Chain Reaction began one cold, gray winter day in 2017,”Heather said. “I was not feeling well and started looking for a way to do something for someone else instead of focusing on myself. A friend had asked me if the homeless could use bicycles. Great question! I reached out to my friend Angie Lozano of Angie’s House (a local community organization that helps the homeless) and asked her that question. Her answer was a resounding YES!
Heather began by posting on Facebook asking for unwanted bicycles. She drove around picking up more bikes than she could’ve asked for. She also asked a few retired cyclist friends if they’d be interested in helping her fix up these bikes and her idea was underway.
Absolute Bikes in the Village of Oak Creek donated a big box of used helmets so every bike she donated came with a helmet.
“I began by donating five bicycles to Angie 's House nd had an article on the front page of the Verde Independent,” she said. “Next I contacted Wing and Laurie of the Sedona Area Homeless Alliance and brought them several bicycles. Red Rock News also published a story on my effort!"
The Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition heard about her endeavor and offered their help as well.
Time and money helped move her organization along and word continued to spread.
Catholic Charities heard about her and she started providing bicycles to homeless vets in the Verde Valley as well as Prescott and Flagstaff.
She received a 501c3 designation for her organization and an AZ Qualifying Charitable Organization designation for tax credit purposes.
“I learned that over 2000 homes in the Verde Valley have no vehicles,” she said. “That was quite shocking. I thought about how a bicycle could get someone to a job interview and then to a job, forever changing their life for the better.
Verde Valley Bicycle Co. now fixes all the bikes that are donated to her organization.
"It’s very important to me that every bike goes out in good condition, and every one comes with a helmet and lock," she said.
According to Heather, there is a process to be followed in order for individuals to qualify for the program. Each person requesting a bicycle from Chain Reaction has to fill out a request-form. Applicants must show they do not have any other means of transportation. She matches each request with the appropriate size bicycle for the person.
When the bikes are delivered, each recipient must sign a waiver and agree to specific requests; for example: always wear a helmet, never ride toward traffic and always ride on the side of the road whenever possible not on the sidewalk (more accidents occur from riding on sidewalks than roads).
“It is such a blessing to me to be able to do this,” she said. “It truly makes my heart sing! I am only one person and although I have had a lot of help I always need more! Money and spreading the word are very important and I can use everyone’s help with this.”
If anyone has a bike to donate, know of someone in need or would like to contribute monetarily please contact Heather at email@example.com. Or call 928-274-3109.
“Please visit my website, www.chainreactionaz.org or Facebook page to keep up with what I’m doing and contribute in any way that you feel led,” she said. “Also, keep me in mind before tax season and donate $400 per individual or $800 per couple to help with your tax debt and help me continue helping those in need in our community.”