So far, Patchwork’s Summer Arts & Smarts children’s activities have been a joy.
This past week was the first of two Bike Weeks for youth ages 10 and up. These Bike Weeks are being held in collaboration with the volunteers in Patchwork’s Bike Shop and the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library’s Year of Hip Hop project.
Each day this week, participants learned how to work on another area of their bikes. They started with tires, then moved to seats and handlebars before working on brakes and then gears and chains. Each day, Pete Emery, Patchwork Bike Shop Coordinator, presented the lesson then the group got to try it out on their own bikes.
It was very hands on. Tubes were removed, inspected, then reinstalled. Bike seats and handlebars were set to optimum heights. Brake parts were sorted and matched, and chains were inspected. Mixed in were lessons on safety and a chance for everyone to ride their newly tuned-up bikes in Patchwork’s parking lot.
The kids had fun. Each received a bike of their own if they didn’t already have one. And everyone, including many of the adults, learned something. One boy was overheard during a water break saying excitedly, “So, we’re going to learn more?!” Another boy commented that he now knows when his brake pads are worn, so he can keep his bike safe to ride. A girl commented that as a result of Bike Week “we’ve gotten our bikes a lot better than they were.”
Next week the learning will continue, and instead of working on their own bikes the Bike Shop, participants will work on bikes to be given to those in need during Patchwork’s regular Patchwork Bike Shop activities. The youth participating in the second Bike Week will get the challenge of assessing a bike and applying the bike repair knowledge that they gained this week. They’ll also get the satisfaction of knowing that they are making a difference for the low income adults who will receive the bikes after they’ve been fixed up.
Demand for these bikes remains very high, and Patchwork’s Bike Shop volunteers have struggled to keep up. Patchwork receives daily inquiries about whether we have bikes to give away. Many come from people who need to get to or from work. Some are from people who have just been released from jail. For all of them, a bike is an essential part of getting around town and doing the things they need to do to have more stability in their lives.