Editor’s Note: Gems of the Valley is a regular feature of the The Parkersburg News and Sentinel highlighting residents who do wonderful things for the community. Nominations can be sent to 519 Juliana St., Parkersburg WV 26101, faxed to 304-485-5122 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
PARKERSBURG – There’s a bucket behind the bar at the Brothers of the Wheel Clubhouse off Staunton Avenue marked “Bail Money,” but charter member Wayne Woolard insists it’s just a joke.
“We don’t get in no trouble,” he laughed. “We’re not Boy Scouts either. We have a good time. We take care of each other.”
The group of avid motorcyclists also takes care of the community, which is why co-worker Candace Brumbaugh nominated Woolard for The Parkersburg News and Sentinel’s Gems of the Valley series.
“When you look at him, you think he’s this big, huge biker guy,” Brumbaugh said. “And yet, him and his … Brothers of the Wheel do more good for the disadvantaged in this area than anybody I can think of.”
Brumbaugh learned of the work Woolard and the group do a couple years ago, when he asked her if she would prepare a Christmas turkey he bought for a co-worker of theirs at Orkin.
It’s the sort of thing the Brothers of the Wheel do regularly. As the holidays approach, each member chooses a family they know of that’s in need to provide with a Christmas dinner.
“And sometimes two,” Woolard said. “It depends. Because we’re not going to try to slight anybody.”
They also collect money the weekend after Thanksgiving at local stores to provide Christmas gifts for children in need through Old Man Rivers’ Mission.
“So far, the Ohio Valley has been real kind to us. We’ve collected enough money to give Christmas to several hundred children each year,” Woolard said.
And if they come up a little short, it’s never a problem.
“We just pass the hat or take the money out of our treasury and go finish the job,” he said.
Woolard’s motivation for participating is simple: He wants to see others have the kind of Christmases he always did.
“I can’t remember ever waking up to a Christmas morning and not having a good Christmas,” he said.
It’s also an enjoyable experience for club members.
“It’s quite rewarding, really,” Woolard said. “We have people stop by that … we gave them presents 10 years ago.”
One of those former recipients now returns each year with a $100 donation in recognition of what the club did for her when she was struggling.
The Brothers also do an annual food drive for Old Man Rivers with the help of local radio stations. The group works to send at least one child a year to Camp Kno-Koma, a summer camp for children with diabetes, through an annual poker run in memory of late member Fred Haddad.
The group has also worked with the Special Olympics West Virginia Fall Games for years, volunteering to help with various activities. A member always brings his motorcycle for the athletes to climb on and pose for pictures.
One girl has “a stack of pictures from the last 10 years of her on the bike,” Woolard said.
Woolard was president of the local Brothers of the Wheel chapter for the first nine years of its existence. He stepped down in January but remains active with the group.
“The club is an old club,” he said. “In order to interest younger people, then some of us older guys have to step aside.”
The group usually has between 10 and 15 members and has had as many as 20. Pretty much all of them ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles, but Woolard said that’s not a prerequisite.
“We don’t care, as long as a person wants to ride,” he said. “It’s kind of like a fraternity in college. We’re brothers for life.”
The group will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on June 14 with a party at Mountwood Park starting at noon. There will be free camping, live music, bike games and food and drinks. The event is open to the public, age 21 and older. Admission is $10 for singles and $15 for couples.