The At-Home Bike Fix-athon

 In Voices of Young People

Social distancing has quickly become an essential fixture in how society at-large functions. We stand at least six feet away from everyone to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus, and we are following stay-at-home orders throughout the country. For organizations like Turn Around Bikes, these directives make their typical workshops with young people and overall community engagement difficult to maintain. But they have found a creative way forward.

Based in Greeley, Colorado, with ties to Northern Colorado Youth for Christ, Turn Around Bikes has been working with teens since 2012 to repair bikes and donate them to people in the broader community who may need a bike for transportation. Their weekly workshops “are run by adult leaders, who facilitate a comfortable environment to learn bicycle mechanic skills, and provide supervision, support, and mentoring to the teen volunteers” as their website describes.

Springtide’s newest research report, Belonging: Reconnecting America’s Loneliest Generation, reveals that the presence of just one trusted adult in a young person’s life can make them feel like they belong and are not alone. This feeling of connection is more important than ever.

Amidst the social distancing prompted by Covid-19, Turn Around Bikes has found a new approach to keep their participants connected to their mission and to one another: the At-Home Bike Fix-athon.  

This program is the brainstorm of Turn Around Bike’s shop coordinator, Jessy Nelson. Through the At-Home Fix-athon, Nelson said a teen volunteer’s family “can fill out a form on our website to participate, and then I will put together a bike package for them. What that will include is information on how to complete the fix on a kid’s bike, a description, and some how-to videos. Then they can take it home, work on it with their family, return [the fixed bike], and a child will receive it at the beginning of summer.”

Nelson has been working with Turn Around Bikes and the teens in their maintenance workshop since 2017.

“In my weekly maintenance workshop, [teen participants] come in every week to learn how to do bicycle repair in the workshop. I teach them how to do it along with some other mentors and then all the bikes go out to people in need in our community,” Nelson said. “This [at-home] program is to substitute for [those weekly workshops], so the [young people] can still help the community, practice their bike mechanic skills, and participate in Turn Around Bikes,” she said.

The At-Home Bike Fix-athon is aiming to connect all different members of the community. It is not just for the teens who participate in Turn Around Bikes, but it also gives families in the area the opportunity to submit an online request to volunteer and fix a kids’ bike at home through this program.

At the end of this Fix-athon, Turn Around Bikes hopes to give away around 65 bikes to kids in the neighborhood surrounding their bike shop. Through this pandemic, Turn Around Bikes is striving to keep their community working together, even at-home, to offer the gift of a refurbished bike.

Turn Around Bike’s At-Home Fix-athon is a great example of how to create a sense of belonging even during this time of social distancing. Nelson is hopeful this current program shift can continue to foster meaningful connections among the teen volunteers, the adult mentors, and the broader community.

“We’re all like a family here; if we can keep on working together from home, I am hoping we can all stay connected.”

Sarah Ruff is a community engagement intern with Springtide and a journalism and advertising/public relations double major preparing to graduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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