Melba Frazier, right, gets a hug from Sue Rouse after Rouse and Denise Klaschen, left, presented her with a new bike at the Kenai waste transfer facility to replace one that was lost earlier this month during a visit to the facility.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Melba got her bike back.
Well, sort of.
Melba, now known to be 85-year-old Melba Frazier of Kenai, is the elderly woman who had her green, adult-sized tricycle with a basket on the back taken from the Kenai Transfer Facility on Oct. 14 when someone mistakenly assumed it had been discarded.
In actuality, Frazier, who rode the bike to the facility daily, had only parked it there while looking at discarded items nearby. She said she was devastated when she learned her bike was gone.
“It wasn’t much of a bike, but it was to me. I enjoyed it every day because you’ve got to stay busy and exercise or you’ll end up in a wheelchair,” she said.
With a broken spirit, Frazier had written off the bike, but Denise Klaschen, an attendant at the transfer facility who had befriended Frazier after so many daily visits, wasn’t ready to give up.
Despite knowing little more than Frazier’s first name, Klaschen and a handful of others championed the cause to get Frazier’s bike back. Klaschen placed an add in the newspaper, hung a cardboard sign at the transfer site and for nearly two weeks made contact with people as they came to dump trash.
“We never did get it back, and figured if we hadn’t by now, we weren’t going to,” Klaschen said.
During the time she tried, many stepped forward to say they would donate to getting Frazier a new bike, should the need arise.
“Everyone kept trying to leave money. We had people from as far away as Arkansas calling and trying to give after reading about it on the Internet,” she said.
Sue Rouse, an employee at D & L Construction in Soldotna, formally organized efforts.
She called Beemun’s Variety to get an estimate on a new bike and collected donations from a variety of individuals and businesses the lion’s share of which came from employees at the Kenai Post Office to pay the $350 retail price for a new bike.
“It was amazing how many people wanted to help. We raised the money so fast, we had to turn away donations because we had enough,” Rouse said.
The new bike they purchased for Frazier was pretty spiffy too, according to Klaschen.
“It’s brand-spanking new and already put together. It’s red and will even have snow tires so she can ride it in winter,” she said.
Klaschen and the others kept the new purchase a secret, and on Friday afternoon they, after learning where Frazier lived, invited her to the transfer facility and surprised her with the new wheels.
“I was shocked,” Frazier said. “I told them they shouldn’t have, but they had already done it. It’s a real nice bike. I’ll ride it every day.”
Klaschen said it felt good to see Frazier ride off on her new bike.
She said, more importantly though, “It feels good to live in a community where so many people would take something like this to heart.”
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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