‘Bucks for Bikes’ on a roll: Local Realtors raise more than $17,000 for toys
By Renee Spencer, Staff Writer
From The State Port Pilot, December 21, 2016. Copyright 2016, The State Port Pilot, Southport, NC.
Rick Mazur is the proverbial golden goose behind several local fundraisers. He’s been helping Paws Place with its annual golf tournament for years. Recently, he became one of the driving forces behind the Brunswick County Association of Realtors (BCAR) “Bucks for Bikes” program. But he’s not a real estate agent; his goal was simply to make the holidays a little brighter for needy children. Mazur works with the BCAR to raise money for its Bucks for Bikes program. The funds go to purchase bicycles for those receiving services from Brunswick Family Assistance. According to local Realtor Margaret Rudd Bishop, the fund-raiser didn’t even have a name until Mazur offered his assistance.
Rudd Bishop recalled that the BCAR bicycle fundraiser began sometime around 2011. At the time, she was to be installed as president of the association. “They asked me if I would serve as president, and I said, ‘Well, I have this ‘bucket-list’ thing,” Rudd Bishop said. An avid bicyclist, her list included pedaling across the United States. She and several others made the trek. When asked to pick a theme for her installation, she said the answer was clear: “Cycling Forward in 2012.”
“So, they surprised me,” she recalled last week. “They had these bicycles hidden, and when it was time for the officers, directors and the people being installed to enter the room, we were all told to get on the bicycles and ride them in. It was just fun.” Those brand-new bicycles were later donated to Brunswick Family Assistance, kicking off what would become the organization’s annual fundraiser. “It seemed like a good fit,” Bishop said.
Stephanie Bowen, executive director of Brunswick Family Assistance, agrees. “Our program offers children three wishes,” Bowen explained.“A bicycle is typically not one of those wishes.” But the form does allow for parents to indicate whether their child would like a bike. “We put that on the application because, in the past, we’ve never had enough bikes to provide one for every child that wanted one,” Bowen explained. “So, we would put it at the bottom of the application and then do a raffle.” But things changed once Mazur and the BCAR teamed to offer their assistance.
Enter a golden goose
Mazur, a St. James resident, was busy working with Paws Place when he walked into Margaret Rudd and Associates’ office to ask for a donation. Inside the office, a poster caught his eye. It was promoting the BCAR annual bicycle fundraiser. The cause struck a chord with Mazur. “My wife and I love Christmas,” he said. “I can’t see a kid not get a Christmas present.” He wanted to help. “I offered to raise some money, and they said, ‘Sure, you can do that,’” he recalled. “We had a due date, and I coined the phrase ‘Bucks for Bikes’ because you have to have something to catch people’s attention.”
Mazur immediately made a plea for the cause in the “Just Judy” and “What’s Up St. James” online publications in his community. Mazur crafted his approach carefully. “People respond to things that affect them,” he said. “So I said, ‘What if your grandchildren didn’t get a Christmas present under the Christmas tree?’”
The response brought in a flurry of donations. “That year, we raised enough money to buy 43 bikes,” Mazur said. Bowen noted that the program started small and has continued to grow. “It gets bigger and bigger each year,” she said. The Realtors believe that Mazur has a lot to do with that. “He’s been really helpful to the Brunswick County Association of Realtors,” said Jim Goodman, 2016 BCAR president. “We’ve been working with Brunswick Family Assistance for several years.”
“We were so lucky that he just saw the appeal for help and adopted it,” Rudd Bishop said. Recalling the last few years, Bowen noted that in 2013 the BCAR contributed 43 bicycles. In 2014, that number rose to 75, and it increased again to 125 in 2015. This year, the BCAR contributed 220 bicycles, tricycles and wagons, and helmets for each rider. Mazur sets a personal fund-raising goal and aims high. “My goal was 50, and we ended up at 140,” Mazur said. “I got one check still coming.”
“He’s always got ‘one check still coming,’” Rudd Bishop said with a chuckle. Goodman noted that Mazur’s territory was all of St. James. “Those donations went from $10 up to $500,” Goodman said. “Someone gave $500.” The Realtors noted that Mazur alone was responsible for more than $10,000 of this year’s $17,670 total. Mazur said his friends and neighbors deserve much of the credit because it is their generosity and willingness to help others that continues to make “Bucks for Bikes” so successful. “All I did was go out to the mailbox,” Mazur said. “I just opened it up, pulled out the envelope and said, ‘Oh, look! $300!’ I’ll have to send them a thank-you note.” His trips to the mailbox resulted in check after check. Residents also dropped by to hand him envelopes and support the cause. “The support from St. James is just phenomenal,” Mazur said.
Big plans for next year
Brunswick Family Assistance serves more than 700 children through its Christmas program, and Bowen noted the need increases every year. While the Brunswick County Association of Realtors already knows it will be working to help them serve those children again next year, Mazur is hoping others will take up the cause. “What I’d like to see is some corporate sponsors step up,” Mazur said. “I’d like to see the power plant donate $3,750 or $5,000. That’s nothing to Duke Power. Or say, Walmart. We’re buying the bikes from Walmart, and I’d like to see Walmart donate $1,500 because they’re getting the business.”
“Or maybe we could recruit some of the service clubs in the area to join us next year,” he added. “The Kiwanis, they do a lot with kids, and there’s St. James Service Club.” Bowen said the help is always appreciated. “It makes a huge difference for these kids,” Bowen said. “Many of these kids, they’re not expecting to get a bike because they know that their parents are financially restricted. They just can’t afford it. “So, when they wake up on Christmas morning, and they see that bike, it’s such a huge surprise to them, and it’s probably something that they’ve never experienced before.”
Mazur and the Realtors say they’re grateful they were able to help so many children. “I think we did well,” Mazur understated. “It was a great year. We did things for people who need help, and that’s what it’s all about.”