BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The heart of Berkeley Heights comes through once again. This time, the Berkeley Heights community rallied to get Alan, a long-time Stop and Shop employee, a new bike. With the magic of social media, the sum of approximately $3,000 was raised in about a week's time to get Alan back on two wheels.
Alan is known around town for riding his bike. He works four days a week at Stop and Shop and relies on his bike to get him from his home in Stirling to Berkeley Heights. In early January, his bike "bit the dust."
When Cindy and John Lepore, of Berkeley Heights, saw Alan walking down Valley Road on one of those dangerously cold sub zero January nights, they stopped without hesitation to give Alan a ride.
"When we stopped, he got right in and he told us his bike was broken," said Cindy Lepore. Alan typically doesn't accept rides from people because he doesn't want to bother anyone. However, on this particular night, he said that he was shivering so badly and hopped right into the car.
Cindy and John knew they had to help Alan. They told Cindy's sister, Cathy Balsamo - "The Mouth [of Berkeley Heights]," as Cindy referred to her sister -- and, she immediately got into action. "Let's go, we have to help this kid," said Balsamo.
Balsamo placed an "ISO bicycle for 'Alan'" post on the Berkeley Heights Community Forum. She included a picture of his old bike and said a donation of like kind would be terrific. The post went viral, and over 200 donations were collected by Balsamo and Hilary Boothby, of Anything Floral.
When Alan found out about this generous gesture from the community, he was emotional and ecstatic at the same time. This heartfelt kindness from the community brought emotions to the employees at Stop and Shop, as well -- and many contributed to the fund.
The story hit so many "heartstrings," including those of retired Berkeley Heights detective Mike Delia, who is an avid rider himself and helped Alan to pick out his new bike.
Alan picked out his new Trek bike from High Gear Cyclery in Stirling. He has a long standing relationship with the shop, who has generously discounted the bike and gear. They have been servicing his bikes over the years, and Alan has ridden in the "pace setter" car with shop owner Rone Lewis, to lead the big annual Stirling bike race year after year.
"Nice to have the opportunity to do something [for Alan]," said Lewis. "That is really fantastic of you folks for doing this."
Due to the overwhelming response to help Alan, gift cards to the local Shop Rite have been purchased and a fund has been set up to help with Alan's expenses [including future bike repairs at High Gear Cyclery]. In addition, a gift card was given to Stephen, a fellow Stop and Shop employee, for a new pair of sneakers.
Alan can't wait to thank the community and tell them how happy he is and how much he loves everyone in Berkeley Heights.
And remember, when you pay it forward and share kindness, you will not only make someone's day -- but your gesture of kindness may be the best day of someone's life. Just ask Alan the next time you see him.