Lakeside Bar and Grill hosting bike drive

Published 8:25 am Friday, December 10, 2021

NILES — One local business is giving its efforts this holiday season to surprise area youth with a new set of wheels this Christmas.

Wegners Lakeside Bar and Grill, 2628 Lake Shore Dr., Niles, is currently hosting its inaugural Lakeside Bike Drive in an effort to provide children across southwest Michigan with brand-new bikes for Christmas. Since around Thanksgiving, restaurant owners Tom and Rachel Wegner have been inviting community members to drop off a brand-new bike for a child ages 15 and under to Lakeside, ship a bike to Lakeside or donate funds via Venmo at @LAKESIDEBIKEDRIVE. Community members can contribute to the project through Dec. 19.

“We really wanted to do something for the holidays, and we’ve done Toys for Tots in the past and given away food and things like that,” Rachel Wegner said. “This year, we came up with the idea to do a bike drive. … It seemed like something on Christmas morning kids could be excited about. A lot of children in need don’t have the opportunity to have new bikes, and with the last two years with COVID, we thought it would be something nice for kids to look forward to getting back outside in the spring.”

Since starting the drive, the Wegners have collected more than 100 bikes to distribute to local youth. Already, 36 of those bikes have been distributed to first graders at Edwardsburg Primary School by working with the National Honor Society to identify students in need. The remaining bikes will be distributed via community organizations such as Helping Hands of Cass County, Cass County CASA and the Cass County Department of Human Services.

Wegner said she has been blown away by the community’s support of the project.

“We were going to be excited if we got 40 bikes,” she said. “It’s amazing. With what people have been through these last couple of years, you know a lot of people have struggled, so it’s overwhelming how the response has been. Everyone has been so generous.”

With a little more than a week left to go in the drive, Wegner hopes the momentum of giving continues and that the Lakeside Bike Drive is able to support as many children as possible.

“We just want the kids to be excited on Christmas morning and to put a smile on their faces,” she said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for people to give back if they can. Some of these families with children in need don’t get to have a Christmas morning, so it’s an opportunity to put something in front of them and make them smile on Christmas morning.”