Community Bike Project Rolling Along 1/2/19 01/02/19 10:48:05 AM
Printer Friendly Version
Trading skinks for spokes, Adam Blowers relishes his job running the Community Bike Project Omaha. (KETV)
Community Bike Project Rolling Along
By Elizabeth A. Elliott
The Daily Record
If you are familiar with the terms freewheels and cassettes, chains and chainrings, headsets, cranks, bottom brackets, wheelbuilding and derailleurs, there is a place for you at the Community Bike Project Omaha.
If you want to learn those terms, there’s a spot for you there as well.
The Community Bike Project Omaha, located at 525 N. 33rd Street in the Gifford Park neighborhood,
has been providing access to bicycles, along with education on repair and safety, since 2007.
Founded by Emerick Huber when he was a student at Creighton University, the goal was to help kids be safe on their bikes. Volunteers and community activists in the Gifford Park neighborhood joined him as a neighborhood-based community involvement program that focuses on the transportation needs of neighbors.
The Community Bike Project Omaha offers several programs for youths and adults that enable them to receive bikes in the end. Children ages 5 to 9 can participate in Kid’s Bike Club. They attend four classes where they are introduced to bicycle maintenance and safe riding skills. Kids who complete the classes earn a free bike and helmet.
Youths ages 10 to 15 can participate in the Youth Earn-A-Bike program. They are required to attend six classes. Similar to the Kid’s Bike Club, youths learn basic maintenance and safe riding skills. There is also guided time fixing up the bikes. Students earn the bike, helmet and a lock for free.
Adults aren’t left out of the free bike program either. If they volunteer at the shop for five to 10 hours and pay a small fee to cover supplies, they, too, can earn a bike. They choose a bike to refurbish and are assisted by a volunteer mechanic. The Adult Earn-A-Bike program runs at the same time as Open Shop.
Open Shop gives people an opportunity to work on their bikes. Volunteers help teach how to make the repairs and the only cost is a fair donation for the supplies used.
The Open Shop is located five blocks north of Dodge at 33rd Street in the Gifford Park neighborhood. (KETV)
Adam Blowers, bike shop manager and program coordinator, said 50 to 60 kids earned bikes through their programs this year.a kid excited about bikes,” he said. “They return year after year. They hang out, volunteer, meet mentors. It’s great to see the impact.”
Mohamed Ukach, 18, is one of those kids excited about bicycling thanks to the Community Bike Project Omaha. He’s been going to the shop since he was 8, when he was just beginning a life of petty crime.
At the bike shop he learned how to repair and maintain bikes. Ukach, who was chosen this year to receive the Greg Siple Award for Young Adult Bike Travel from Adventure Cycling, said he is inspired by the people in the shop.
“It’s given me a lot of joy,” he said. The Central High graduate is a student at Iowa Western Community College.
Blowers said it is more than just a bike shop. “It’s a community hub,” he said.
The shop had a big impact on his own life. He went from studying for a master’s in biology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (researching skinks) to managing a bike shop. He started volunteering at the shop in 2014, started running the programs in 2015 and took over the store in 2016.
Blowers said the biggest challenge faced by the organization is funding. As a nonprofit, they rely on donations.
His goals going into 2019 include offering more open shop hours. That means he will also need to increase his staff.
The store, established 11 years ago, is open to anyone. That includes people with bike skills and novices. The store repairs, builds, maintains and sells bikes.
“People should come for low-cost bikes with repairs done by people who know what they are doing, instead of [shopping at] a pawn shop,” Blowers said.
In order to provide bicycles for kids and adults to earn, the store needs donations. The bikes go to the earn-a-bike programs, as well as being available for community partnerships, recycling, refurbishing and for purchase at a discount.
There are many ways to get involved at the Community Bike Project Omaha. The store is looking for a volunteer coordinator, traffic flow manager, volunteer mechanics and key holders, who design and implement events.
Other volunteer opportunities include mentoring, housekeeping, parts retrieval, building bikes for purchase, event and community outreach, and computer or technical assistance.
Attorney Craig Kelley, a partner at Inserra Kelley Sewell, is passionate about bikes – both the motorized and foot-propelled variety. He and his firm are big on giving back and Kelley has followed his bicycle passion to the Community Bike Project.
Kelley bicycles with the Dundee Chain Gang and encourages them to give to the Community Bike Project.
“I tell them when they clean out their garages to bring their bicycles to them,” he said. “It’s a great group with a great mission.”
Kelley said attorneys can get involved as individual or corporate sponsors (as his firm does), and help spread the word about the organization in other suburban areas that might not know about the Gifford Park group.
“They also need people passionate about them to be on their board,” Kelley said.
Volunteers are needed to assist with bicycle repairs and to serve as role models for youth participants. No bicycle knowledge is needed, just a willingness to learn. Prior knowledge of bicycle mechanics is a plus, but they also love teaching people.
To find out more, go to communitybicycleshopomaha.org or call 402-957-2454.