By Rob Travis
Bradley (BA ’10, MS ’14) and Meredith Holtz (MS ’14) are alumni who exemplify the Volunteer spirit. Watching the devastation caused last year by the wildfires in Gatlinburg, they knew they had to find a way to help.
As avid outdoor enthusiasts, the couple loves biking and exploring East Tennessee’s beauty along with their son, Gordon. Holtz had managed to translate this love of biking into a career as a bike technician. Years ago, while replacing a bike wheel, he saw that the wheel’s spokes, destined for the landfill, could have a new life. Breaking the wheel down, he began to bend and shape a single spoke into a symbol of love for Meredith—a bracelet in the shape of Kiawah Island, South Carolina, where they were married.
She loved the bracelet, and they soon discovered others did as well. Friends and family started asking for their own spoke bracelets. Holtz designed two additional styles—a simple circle and a heart to symbolize unity and love. And the business Spokes for Folks was born.
Flash forward to November 2016, when fires destroyed 2,460 businesses and homes in the area, killing 14 and injuring about 190 people, the Holtzes were determined to use their business to help others in their time of need. So, they created a special edition spoke bracelet in a bold shape representing the mountains and symbolizing the strength of the people who call this place home.
They initially planned on only producing a few bracelets and making a small donation, but the response was overwhelming. Now, Holtz spends his free time crafting spokes into bracelets, and Meredith pitches in by taking orders and making deliveries. They ask only for a $10 donation for each bracelet, and all proceeds go to relief funds. Together, they’ve created 400 bracelets so far and raised over $4,000 in donations for the Pi Beta Phi Elementary School.
What started as a small gift of love Meredith, has grown into an expression of strong support for the people and the mountains they both love.
If you would like to purchase a spoke bracelet, visit the Spokes for Folks Facebook page.