Every summer, Joe Tucker discovers how a bicycle can change a child’s life.
He witnesses how riding with friends helps them develop a sense of community and how riding alone promotes independence.
“It gives them a larger reality with a world view,” he said. “It transforms their world from 4 blocks to 20 and it expands where and how they live.”
Through South Street Ministries’ Bike Shop program, Tucker, the executive director of the nonprofit Summit Lake / South Akron, also sees around 100 children each summer developing relationships with caring adults while learning to mend. broken bikes and ultimately earn a living. own.
The Bike Shop was recently named one of 24 organizations that received a total of $ 40,300 in grants under the program. Millennium Fund for Children, a partnership between the Akron Beacon Journal and the Akron Community Foundation.
South Street plans to use the award to expand and improve the program by attracting people who can train volunteers in high-end repair, which will give children a better education on repairing and maintaining bicycles.
They also hope to expand their free bicycle rental programs at community events such as Kenmore First Fridays and Summit Lake Farmers Market and improve their sales of fully refurbished locks, pumps and bicycles.
The program, one of South Street’s oldest initiatives, was started around 20 years ago and is currently hosted at the South Street Founders’ House, where children meet on Monday and Wednesday evenings during the been to fix a shed full of broken bikes in the driveway.
Children have to help repair bikes or clean and organize the store for a certain number of hours depending on their age in order to win a bike.
“When it works, and it doesn’t always work, you get a kid who learns how to use the tools and can say ‘I fixed this myself,'” said Tucker, who first started training. volunteering with Bike Shop as part of his Eagle Scout. project. “I tell the volunteers that if it takes them two hours to change a flat tire, that’s fine. They have time. It’s two hours spent learning something together.”
“At the end of the day, it’s a lot more about the time spent fixing a bike with a caring adult and a neighborhood kid,” he said.
12-year-old Gabe Khavnn, for example, will be coming to Bike Shop several times throughout the summer to spend time with adults and friends. Gabe shows up at the start of the summer to claim the bike he wants, then will work three shifts so he can cycle home with his brothers, sister and cousin who also participate.
Last summer he won a red, white and blue bike and said the best part was “fixing the bikes”.
“The kids love it,” said Bob Irwin, director of the youth training program. “It’s something tangible and they learn the value of working for something. They take great pride in their bikes because they can say ‘I fixed it.’”
Bike Shop also repairs adult bikes, which are donated to homeless people and those who have just been released from prison.
“A bike can put them to work. It’s economical, it’s utilitarian,” Tucker said. “There’s the issue of going up and down the towpath recreationally, but it’s also the functionality of going from point A to point B and getting there faster because they have two wheels at the instead of two feet. ”
Bike Shop does not accept donations of bicycles at this time. Inquiries about donated tools and equipment can be directed to Tucker at [email protected] For more information visit https://southstreetministries.org/.
Journalist Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, [email protected] or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.