Whether he's providing bicycles to help homeless veterans find employment or gifting bicycles to children who would otherwise go without, Medford resident Peter Clark feels like he's benefited far more than any of the 1,300 souls he's provided with transportation.
A former urologist and surgeon, Clark retired in 1996 after nearly two decades practicing medicine to build his dream home on 160 acres above Dead Indian Memorial Road.
To help Peter Clark meet his goal of giving away 200 bikes this holiday season, used bikes, parts or financial contributions can be dropped off at the Medford Salvation Army store, 922 N. Central Ave.
For questions or other information, call Clark at 541-821-8388.
After working on the home for nearly a decade with his wife, Jenny, an Alzheimer's diagnosis in 2005 changed his life.
"My dad had been diagnosed with the same thing, and he was gone within three years, so I figured I had about that long," Clark said.
Unable to drive or complete most tasks by late 2008, Clark described life as "like being in a fog."
"I knew what was happening and I knew it probably wasn't going to get any better," he said.
In 2009, Clark moved to Medford to live out his days, but he couldn't shake an unexplainable feeling that he could recover from the dementia.
A regimen of vitamin B and brewer's yeast seemed to prompt a reversal in symptoms, but Clark credits his continued health more to faith than modern medicine or nutrition.
"No one can explain it, but my symptoms seemed to reverse, and I started feeling better than I had in a long time," he said.
"I could barely do anything anymore, and I guess it was just within a week or two I felt good enough I could drive again."
With a new lease on life, Clark wanted to help others.
He took part in food collections and a sleeping-bag drive, and he provided free maintenance and repairs in low-income mobile home parks. A casual request to repair a pair of bicycles for some kids prompted his next, and favorite, idea — the Chariots for Children Bicycle Ministry.
After those first two bikes were repaired, five more showed up. The faster he fixed the bikes, the faster more would show up.
Not knowing how long his symptoms would remain at bay, Clark vowed to repair and build 1,000 bikes for people in need. Providing bikes to organizations such as Medford Gospel Mission, Maslow Project and a host of others, Clark has repaired more than 1,300 donated bikes over the past four years.
Michael Winfield, case manager and outreach coordinator for Rogue Valley Veterans and Community Outreach, said Clark's work to provide bikes had changed countless lives. A Vietnam veteran himself, Clark said his bikes go to help homeless people in general, but children and veterans touch a special chord.
With transportation being a key element in helping veterans recover from substance abuse and homelessness, Clark's bicycle gifts can be a lifeline, Whitfield said.
"It's just an incredible blessing. Transportation is so crucial for people who are rebuilding their lives," Whitfield said.
"When it comes down to walking across town to work or riding a bicycle, it really makes a huge difference. Transportation is a huge stepping stone for people trying to get their freedom back. A lot of people in our program have barriers to driving because of legal issues or DUIs, so these bicycles that Peter provides are really a lifeline."
Medford Salvation Army Captain Martin Cooper called Clark a vital community resource for the bikes and sleeping bags he has provided.
"In the whole spectrum of helping others, he's changed a lot of lives for people from all different walks of life," Cooper said.
"We can keep track of how many bikes he's fixed and given away, but we'll never know how many lives he's saved for people who would have slept on the freezing ground if they didn't have those sleeping bags."
With the holiday season just around the corner, Clark's newest goal is to provide 200 bikes during the holidays. He has seven bikes under his belt in recent weeks, and the 75-year-old works seven days each week collecting parts and fixing the bikes that show up.
Figuring he can complete "three and a quarter" bikes each day as long as parts and repairable bikes continue to trickle in, Clark hopes for donations of used bikes, parts and cash to fill in the gaps.
"I'm in my ninth year of diagnosis and am pretty much holding my own, and my condition has improved at least 80 percent. I feel like I still have people who need my help," he said. "This is what I'm supposed to be doing, for as long as I'm able."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at email@example.com.