The pandemic has changed life as we know it for everyone, from children to seniors, and everyone in between. With limitations on the size of gatherings and face to face interaction many organizations with a social service mission have had to change the way they operate. At the September 15 Evanston Bike Club (EBC) meeting three organizations that also happen to be EBC grant recipients provided an update on adjustments they’ve made to their programs in light of COVID-19.
Bikes N’ Roses is a full-service bike shop selling new and used bikes and uses the proceeds to support their programs to develop workforce readiness skills for neighborhood youth. Though their bike club program they teach bike maintenance and business skills including a strong emphasis on programs for women. Older youth teach younger youth.
According to Danni Limonez, Program Coordinator, just before the lock down they moved from Albany Park to a new facility in the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood and have been busy getting that space setup. During the pandemic, Bikes N’ Roses has continued to donate bikes to community partners that the youth have refurbished. They are working on a partnership with Divvy and have a remote after school program. Students are encouraged to ride bikes to the shop and wear personal protective equipment while onsite.
The Recyclery Collective is an educational non-profit bike shop that promotes sustainability by giving access to tools and skills to foster a diverse, resilient neighborhood filled with knowledgeable, self-reliant cyclists. According to Tzippora Rhodes, Freecyclery and Youth Program Manager, volunteers refurbish bikes for donation. Their small shop space has not allowed volunteers to be in the shop in recent months, so bikes are being moved to the homes of volunteers for refurbishment and then donated in bulk to community partners and to individuals via contactless pickup. Since the lockdown, they have donated 92 bikes. They also installed a permanent new bike fix-it station outside their facility.
The Experimental Station/Blackstone Bicycle Works is an educational youth program and community bike shop with the mission to provide educational and vocational opportunities to youth. They partner with Chicago Public Schools, block clubs, and other organizations to offer workshops, lectures, performances, and community gatherings. Students develop bike maintenance skills through an apron level system like the colored belts of martial arts with the most advanced students earning the Black Apron Certification which enables them to become professional bike mechanics. According to DJ Fish, Youth Services Coordinator, they have moved to virtual programming since March and have actually doubled the number of participants in their fall programs from 12 to 25. They raised $15,000 and donated bikes for World Bicycle Relief and continue to lead group rides.
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