The basics: Anthony “Tea” Gonzales, 35, is the creator of peDal jUnkies, a Fresno bicycle group that hosts activities like bicycle polo tournaments. He also works at P*DE*Q Bakery. “It’s this inside joke,” Gonzales says of his nickname. “They call me ‘Sweet Tea’ on the court, ‘Ice Tea,’ ‘Hot tea.’ … That’s my alter ego.”
What he does: Through peDal jUnkies, Gonzales collects blankets for the homeless in Fresno, a campaign he calls “Blankies for the Homies.” “I hate the word ‘homeless,’ ” Gonzales said. “They are my homies. … They are my friends now. … They are thankful to see me, and I’m thankful for them.”
Each Christmas, Gonzales and a group of volunteers hand out the blankets at a make-shift homeless camp in Fresno. The crew also makes soup and shares other items, like clothes and socks. “Whatever is in my trailer, it’s gone,” Gonzales said of the giveaway. This season marks the collection drive’s fifth year.
Why he does it: “I have a 15-year-old son and I just wanted to represent good stuff, you know,” Gonzales said tearfully. “I wanted my family to be proud, so I prayed on it and then God said, ‘You’re not going to get anything if you don’t help.’ … Christmas, everybody is expecting stuff — ‘it’s all about me’ — and what I really want my son to learn is that it’s bigger than us. You have to care about people. You have to.”
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The turning point: Biking home five years ago in the pouring rain after a bicycle polo match, Gonzales saw a middle-aged woman sleeping on a Fresno sidewalk and felt compelled to help. He warmed up a cup of noodles for her and gave her his blanket. “Her name was Wendy and she started everything,” Gonzales said.
Details, details: The blanket drive is growing, with nearly 500 blankets collected last year, Gonzales said. Handing out the blankets reminds Gonzales of the story in the Bible where Jesus feeds thousands with just five loaves of bread and two fish. “It always feels like that. … We’re like, ‘This line is not stopping, but we are still giving out blankets!’ Man, it’s the most rewarding feeling. Money cannot put a price on that, man, straight up.”
Gonzales said peDal jUnkies and Blankies for the Homies “all started from just a little dream, a really small inspiration of life. But I’m telling you, the orchestrator of this thing is God. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this if I didn’t say my prayers and always hit him up and be like, “Damn, thank you, man. Thank you for even like the rough times, you know.’ ”
Gonzales hopes peDal jUnkies will become a nonprofit next year. Of the blanket drive, he said: “I’m having a great time keeping the city warm.”
What others say: Chris Eacock, owner of Tower Velo Bicycle Shop, said Gonzales is a sincere person with child-like pep: “Whenever he comes to the shop, the volume level increases.” Eacock’s Tower District bike shop serves as a drop-off location for blankets, and Gonzales often holds peDal jUnkies gatherings there.
“He brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to everything that he does,” Eacock said. “Fresno is really lucky to have him.”
How you can help: New or gently-used blankets can be dropped off from the last week of November until a few days before Christmas at a number of locations. This year, there were drop boxes at Sunnyside Bicycles, Tower Velo Bicycle Shop, P*DE*Q bakery and corner, and Digital Image. Information is posted on Facebook at Fresno PedalJunkies and people with questions can call (559) 394-5285 or email email@example.com.
— Carmen George