WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — This year, Jimmy’s bike collection ticker outside the Lumina Avenue bar hit four digits.
Collecting more than 1,037 bikes in all, Jimmy’s Toys for Tots drive this year broke the bar’s previous record and surpassed its owner’s expectations.
“I thought its going to be an uphill battle for sure, but every year there’s an excuse,” Jimmy Gilleece, Jimmy’s owner said. Whether it’s hurricanes or Covid-19, Gilleece said somehow the community finds a way to pull together for children in need.
“It feels great,” he said. “It’s unbelievable how everybody came out this year.”
Jimmy’s beat out last year’s record of 792 bikes donated in part due to a new feature: a donation button on his website. The button attracted more than $25,000 in donations, dedicated specifically for the purchase of bikes. Gilleece added it this year in case donors wanted to participate but were concerned about Covid-19.
With the donations, Gilleece and his friends trucked up to Wallace on a daily basis this month to fulfill the donor’s wishes. (Bikes purchased via donations are included in the 1,037-bike total).
“Every day it seemed we had two or three thousand to go buy bikes with,” he said. “So we were just rolling the whole time. Two or three trips in a day.”
‘We filled the whole thing up.’
Jimmy’s isn’t a huge bar. Gilleece relied on friends who had space in Grand View apartments across the bridge to store the bikes.
“It was almost impossible to find a place to keep 1,000 bikes. So they kind of saved the day,” he said. “We filled that whole thing up.”
Gilleece first got the idea to focus on bikes in 2017 during his first year participating in the effort. He aimed to support L Shape Lot frontman and 98.3 The Penguin DJ, Eric Miller, in his annual efforts to collect as many toys as possible for the Salvation Army drive.
After a toy collection box at the bar wasn’t attracting much attention, Gilleece switched to bikes. “Two weeks into it I had two toys and one of them was from my mom,” he said. “It was weak as hell. I was like, man, we can do better than this.”
This year, Miller and his band’s ninth annual effort collected at least 570 toys and $2,600. With the annual holiday concert not possible under Covid-19 restrictions, The Penguin and The Dude served as a host site to collect donated toys.
Gilleece posts on social media thanking every single donor. This year, he said he had to hire two people just to keep up with the posts.
“It’s an election year and everybody seems to hate everybody,” he said. “It’s just, it’s pretty sad but we all came together and we all agree kids deserve a good Christmas.”
Play the video below to see the garage full of donated bikes. Video courtesy of Gilleece:
Disclosure notice: Port City Daily, 93.3 The Penguin, and 93.7 The Dude are both owned by the same parent company, Local Daily Media.
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