2018-05-31 / Editorial

Did You Hear?

by Alex MacPhail


Chloe Barclay, 10, a Biddeford Intermediate School student, enjoys riding her bike to “her cousin’s house, to the park and to the store,” and Biddeford Primary School teacher, and Community Bicycle Center volunteer, Matt McDonald, prepare a special Monster Highthemed bicycle recently for Chloe, who traded in her old bicycle for a newly refurbished model, as part of the Kids Bike Factory “Earn and Learn” program held weekly at Community Bicycle Center. (Courtesy photo) Chloe Barclay, 10, a Biddeford Intermediate School student, enjoys riding her bike to “her cousin’s house, to the park and to the store,” and Biddeford Primary School teacher, and Community Bicycle Center volunteer, Matt McDonald, prepare a special Monster Highthemed bicycle recently for Chloe, who traded in her old bicycle for a newly refurbished model, as part of the Kids Bike Factory “Earn and Learn” program held weekly at Community Bicycle Center. (Courtesy photo) Did you hear? The Community Bicycle Center, located on Granite Street in Biddeford, is more than just a bike shop, it is a mentoring program for the youth of Biddeford and surrounding areas.

Tracing its roots back to 2001, the nonprofit organization has provided programs for thousands of area children over the years with programs such as the Kids Bike Factory, where children learn how to work with their hands and, just as important, learn job readiness/ employment skills along with science and math, all while working on used and donated bicycles. The children also have the option to earn a bicycle through those means by assisting with the repair and maintenance of them. The center, which was most recently was housed in the small confines of a parks department building located on Hill Street at St. Louis Alumni Field, used to average nine to 10 children a day. According to lifelong Biddeford resident and Program Director Andrew Burnell, who first became involved with the program in 2005, the move to a larger facility, and a more “in town” location on Granite Street in 2014 (with 6 acres behind the facility for outdoor activities and direct access via trails to Clifford Park), resulted in 20-plus children dropping in daily and grew from there. Not only are bicycle programs available, the center also provides outreach, mentoring, meals (the center provided over 200 free lunches during their summer camp programs), juvenile justice hours and more importantly, a place for local youth who may or may not have a lot of positive influences in their life, or have something to do after school.

According to information provided by Arundel resident and Executive Director Bronwyn Barnett, in 2017 alone, 455 youth from Biddeford and surrounding areas directly benefitted from Community Bicycle Center, which Barnett called a “Boy’s and Girl’s Club on wheels” for area youth, emphasizing the mentoring aspect of the programs.

“It’s not just about bicycles,” said Barnett (who first became involved with the center through Americorps in 2009). “It’s so much more. Yes we do things like refurbish and sell bikes, but not to make a profit or be a bicycle shop; rather, we create positive influences for the kids and teach them how to interact with the community. These kids are building up sweat equity with hard work, it’s not a giveaway, it’s not a hand out.”

When asked about the benefit to the youth in the community, Barnett called it, “a hand up.”

Programs include the Kids Bike Factory, summer camps, a daily drop-in (with games, projects, mentoring, homework help and more), and coming up, yearly support and mentor/youth participation in the upcoming Trek Across Maine bike ride held the weekend of June 15 to benefit the American Lung Association.

To find out more about the programs and opportunities available at the Community Bike Center, or how to volunteer, help or donate, visit www.communitybike.net.

Do you have a local event you would like to see featured? Email ad representative Alex MacPhail at haveyouheardcourier@gmail.com and we will see you there.

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