Community Bike Works, an Allentown-based youth organization, has announced plans to expand its youth bike mentoring programs with a location in Easton’s West Ward.
“The City of Easton and its staff has been extremely welcoming and Community Bike Works is thrilled to be invited to engage the young people of Easton in youth bike mentoring,” says Community Bike Works executive director Kim Schaffer. Community Bike Works teaches life lessons through bicycles. In its flagship Earn a Bike program, young people are connected with mentors for 12 weeks of lessons in bike mechanics and safety. Upon completion of the program, students earn their refurbished bike.
Earlier this year, the City of Easton reached out to Community Bike Works to discuss a possible expansion in Easton as a way to meet two of the city’s goals: creating a more bike-friendly city and finding new ways to engage the city’s youth. In addition to the City of Easton, Community Bike Works found a partner in a fellow nonprofit — the Greater Easton Development Partnership (GEDP). GEDP is looking to purchase a building in the West Ward that could provide some support space for its Easton Ambassadors and Easton Garden Works programs, as well as Community Bike Works.
In 2019, GEDP launched the West Ward Community Initiative, which supports community revitalization in partnership with the City of Easton. Jared Mast, executive director-GEDP, says one facet of that work is engaging youth through programming and activities, which made the partnership with Community Bike Works a natural fit. GEDP hopes to enhance the building with a mural from GEDP’s Easton Murals program.
To kickstart the project, the Air Products Foundation has committed $100,000 to support the purchase of a building. The Air Products Foundation has long been a supporter of Community Bike Works and is eager to support this new initiative.
“Working with the city, GEDP and the Air Products Foundation has been an amazing part of this process for us, and they’ve been able to help move this project forward in these challenging times when the need to positively engage youth is greater than ever,” Schaffer says.
A bike-friendly city
The addition of Community Bike Works will bring more youth programming to the West Ward. The City of Easton says the strategic recruitment will complement many initiatives the city is undertaking to make the area more bicycle-friendly.
"We are excited at the prospect of bringing the successful Community Bike Works program to Easton and locating it in the West Ward neighborhood," said Easton Mayor Sal Panto, Jr. "Its Earn a Bike programs use a mentoring approach in teaching kids how to build and maintain a bike. But the programs also teach them life lessons, grow their self confidence, and help them improve their social skills and academic performance. Community Bike Works’ involvement in our community furthers my administration's goal of making this a bike-friendly town, and is a natural fit for Easton as the soon-to-be home of Bicycling Magazine and Hearst Publishing, as well as a portion of the D&L Trail. Community Bike Works will be a major asset to the city and we look forward to having them here."
Perseverance and teamwork
Community Bike Works is celebrating 25 years of Earn a Bike in 2020-21. Since Community Bike Works started in 1995, more than 5,500 students have participated in the Earn a Bike program. The organization is committed to helping students learn more than bike mechanics.
“Students may not learn to fix their brakes the very first time they come, but they’re learning perseverance, teamwork, communication and safety — as well as how to turn a broken bike into one they can ride,” Schaffer says.
Schaffer says Community Bike Works has expanded since its founding to offer a range of youth mentoring programs. Once engaged in Earn a Bike, students can participate in book and gardening programs, as well as recreational and competitive cycling. Teens are invited to participate in youth leadership seminars that help them prepare for college and careers, while also finding ways to engage in their community. In Community Bike Works’ most recent year, more than 500 students participated in Earn a Bike and its sister program Junior Earn a Bike, 3,000 miles were ridden, 1,400 lunches served and 1,000 books distributed.
“The Air Products Foundation is proud to continue to support Community Bike Works as it expands into Easton,” said Laurie Hackett, director of Community Relations at Air Products. “We have seen firsthand the incredible impact the program has on kids and their families and we are excited about this partnership with the City of Easton and GEDP.”
While the public health challenge is a complicating factor, Community Bike Works expects to be able to offer some programming by Summer 2021. In order to meet the challenges of the public health crisis, Community Bike Works has developed an online Earn a Bike program and added more frequent bike rides at its two current locations, in downtown and East Allentown.
“We want kids to be physically and mentally healthy,” Schaffer says. “Especially during these challenging times, families are looking for ways to offer their children enrichment opportunities, outdoor activities, and connections in their community.”
Once the Easton location is open, Community Bike Works will be looking for bike donations — no matter the size or condition. To learn more about the organization and volunteer opportunities, visit communitybikeworks.org.
ABOUT: GEDP is a volunteer-driven, nonprofit organization focused on nurturing Easton's economic well-being and cultural vibrancy. For more information, contact Executive Director Jared Mast at 610-250-2078 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit us online at eastonpartnership.org.
ABOUT: Community Bike Works Community Bike Works teaches life lessons through bicycles to the young people of Allentown and the Lehigh Valley who could benefit most. For more information, visit communitybikeworks.org or contact Executive Director Kim Schaffer at email@example.com or 484-554-8971.