The holidays are usually synonymous with giving, but 2020 is proving to be anything but a typical year. We checked in with Jenn Nowalk, a Raleigh mom of two and co-founder of Triangle Spokes Group
, to see how her non-profit plans to make the holiday season brighter for hundreds of local kids – in a year that’s been challenging for all.
Go Ask Mom: This marks the 14th year that Triangle Spokes Group has benefited local families. Tell us about your organization.
Jenn Norwalk: Triangle Spokes Group is a local nonprofit that provides new bikes and helmets to less fortunate families during the holiday season. Over the last 14 years, we have been able to pedal joy to over 6,600 area children and families. We have a partnership with HUFFY and are able to provide a new bicycle and helmet for just $85. We are set-up so that 100% of donations goes directly toward the purchase of new bikes.
Each year, the Salvation Army helps us find the families most in need and we give the bikes away during their annual Toy Shop
drive in the middle of December, which provides families with new clothing and toys that they can give to kids on Christmas morning to create a magical holiday experience. We fundraise all year long in order to provide the bikes, but the majority of our donations come in during the months of November and December.
We are so passionate about what we do, because a new bicycle can provide a sense of freedom and adventure for children. It’s one of the most requested gifts each year – and with many sports on hold, indoor activities canceled, and kids spending more time on screens than ever before – getting outside on bikes seems more important than ever.
GAM: This year has been difficult for so many families. Is it harder for you to raise money during a pandemic?
JN: This year has certainly been challenging in more ways than one for nonprofits. Due to manufacturing and material shortages we had to place the order for the bikes earlier than usual. Typically, we place the order for the bicycles in September, which gives us more time to raise funds and have a sense of how many bikes we can purchase. This year we had to order in July, which really required a leap of faith that we would be able to get all the bikes paid for. We’ve also had to cancel some of our annual fall fundraising events due to the pandemic, but we are looking at other ways we can get people involved – through online promotions and donations.
And of course, many families have faced hardships this year and may not be in a position to give like they have in year’s past. But ultimately, we are fortunate to have so many generous and giving residents here in the Triangle and people have been showing support in any way they can. So, while overall donations may be down a bit, I do believe our community will come together in the end. And if we’re able to exceed our goal, it will enable us to purchase even more bicycles next year and keep the tradition going forward.
The Salvation Army has experienced challenges as well with layoffs and limited staff. They also are working hard to provide a positive Toy Shop experience to over 7,700 children and 3,600 families this year that look for help in making the holidays brighter. The Toy Shop will look different this year, but will still bring joy to area families that need it more than ever.
GAM: You have two daughters, and they obviously see you lending your time and resources to Triangle Spokes Group and other charities. What impact do you think that has on them?
JN: Being part of Triangle Spokes Group has always been a family affair. My daughters, now aged 12 and 13, have only ever known life with Triangle Spokes Group. They get excited to learn about how many bikes we will give away each year and know that around this time of year we usually are stuffing envelopes for mailers and asking friends, family, and neighbors for their help and support. They also love to head over to the Toy Shop when the bikes get delivered to the warehouse, usually right after Thanksgiving. Last year they even wanted to be part of social media efforts and calls to help with fundraising.
In previous years they have gathered their friends together to do bake sales, lemonade stands, and pumpkin carving events and encouraged the others to bring loose change to donate. They understand that every dollar truly counts, and can make a difference in the life of a Triangle child. Friends have also opted for birthday parties with donations to TSG encouraged, in lieu of gifts.
It’s important for them to see the culmination of work that happens all year long, and how helping others can bring so much happiness. Our kids are always watching our actions and learning from us.
GAM: What advice would you give to other moms who might be reading this and feeling that spark to get involved in nonprofit work?
JN: My advice will be to find something that excites you and just start somewhere. It may just be a phone call to find out how you can get involved with an existing organization or jumping in to volunteer on an event. It could be gathering some friends together for a night to shop at a local boutique that will give a portion of proceeds spent to a local charity of your choice – you are getting to shop, socialize, help others and spread the word about the charity you selected and why. Two local shops, the Flourish Market and Swagger, both offer this service either in store or for a driveway pop-up opportunity. Other groups like Activate Good also provide great volunteer opportunities in the area.
GAM: How can people support Triangle Spokes Group?
JN: There are a few ways that people can support Triangle Spokes Group:
- Donations can be made online at www.TriangleSpokesGroup.org
- Checks can be made payable to Triangle Spokes Group and mailed to 725 Manchester Drive, Raleigh N.C. 27609
- Make a donation in honor of or in memory of someone special – we have donor cards available that can be sent to you to be able to give as a gift.
- Corporate sponsorship opportunities are also available, more details can be found our website.
- Check to see if your employer are offers employee donation matches
And finally, please help spread the word about Triangle Spokes Group – like and share this article, visit our website, and reach out to see how you can help pedal joy to Triangle kids this holiday season!
Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.