Keith and Patsy Rowland both grew up in small Montana towns where kids relied on bikes for transportation. Patsy says, “my town had four streets going one way and four streets going the other way, and we’d all just play hide and seek on bicycles in the street every evening.”
Keith’s father was particularly committed to bike life for kids. In their town of 500, Keith’s dad maintained an informal bike lending program, keeping eight or 10 bikes on a rack in their front yard. “When the ranch and farm kids came into town,” Patsy says, “they knew they could grab a bike off the rack and borrow it for the day. Keith’s dad was always tuning the bikes, fixing flats, and keeping the bikes in good working order so kids could have independence getting around town.”
Patsy says that she never owned a new bicycle until she was an adult — she always rode hand-me-downs. Nuttin’ wrong with hand-me-downs, but Patsy knows the unique appeal of a brand-new bike. And this is why for the past five years Patsy and Keith, along with Carolyn Groninger, have been celebrating every real estate transaction that runs through their Winthrop Star Properties business with the purchase of a new bike for a Methow Valley child.
No matter how big or small, every transaction results in a free bike for a kid. Facilitated by the Manger Mall program, the bike giveaway takes place as a lottery. This year, 80 families got a lottery ticket for a new kids’ size bike — ranging from trikes for the little ones up to 24-inch wheels, Patsy says. The 16 bikes available in 2020 also came with a ticket for a free helmet from Aero Methow Rescue Service’s bike helmet program.
“If buying a brand-new bike for a kid is something a family can’t do, that’s who we want a bike to go to,” Patsy says. “Bikes have a very special meaning for us.”
Patsy is not sure whether her real estate clients know that their transactions with Winthrop Star Properties helped provide Methow Valley kids with the roughly 75 bikes given away through Manger Mall over the past five years, but they are critical partners in the operation.
Patsy has been involved with Manger Mall for years, making blankets and pillowcases, but as she has been getting busier with real estate and the Winthrop Store, she feels like her impact on Manger Mall is greater as a bike donor than a seamstress. “It’s a way to give back to this wonderful community,” she says.
Keith and Patsy moved to the Methow Valley 40 years ago for Keith’s Forest Service job and had always intended to move back within three to five years, but so much of the Methow reminded them of Montana that at some point they realized that they were already home. “When we bought our Twin Lakes property,” Patsy says, “there was bitterroot — the Montana state flower — everywhere, and the first bird calls we heard were the Western Meadowlark, the Montana State bird. It just felt like home.”