Jefferson Award Honoree: Carlos Dempsey
Story by David Carroll
Eyewitness News Anchor
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- February's Jefferson Award nominee helps make dreams come true.
The name Carlos Dempsey sound familiar to you. He's also known as the "Bicycle Santa". And out of necessity, his workshop is busy 365 days a year.
Inside Chattanooga's Callahan Mechanical Contractors is a hard working employee who is devoted to his job.
But he's also devoted to the children of Chattanooga, especially those in need.
Carlos Dempsey's role as the "Bicycle Santa" began more than 20 years ago, after he'd heard about one family down on their luck at Christmas time.
"Christmas Eve about midnight, they never knew it was me. We took them to the porch, that's how it started," says Dempsey.
Before long, he realized there were many other children who could use some holiday cheer. He couldn't afford to buy the parts himself, so some local radio stations took up the cause.
"Fifty people knew from the year before, and it went from 3 to at least 100 every year," says Dempsey.
Soon, local businesses and musicians began having fundraisers to help Carlos with expenses. And in recent years, he realized the need is year round, so he began providing bicycles and jackets to children, throughout the year.
"People call, it's their child's birthday, so I go to my friends and take donations, that's what I do," says Dempsey.
He says he's blessed to work for Callahan's Mechanical Contractors. His employers, he says, make it possible for him to do these good deeds.
"Buddy and Rod Callahan let me store the bikes here, let me use the company truck, they are two of the greatest people around," says Dempsey.
Carlos Dempsey knows there will never be enough bicycles to go around, and that there will always be children in need. But he is proud to do his small part to brighten the lives of children he doesn't even know. And he's thankful for friends and co-workers who help him make it all possible.
"When I ask 'em for donations, some people say kids don't ride bikes, they play computer games. But 65% don't have a computer. A bike and a winter coat is the only thing they get for Christmas," says Dempsey.
One amazing part of this story, Carlos has been delivering these bikes since 1983, but he always makes sure the kids don't see him deliver.
In that sense, he's a secret "Bicycle Santa".