By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Imagine a safe place where kids can get their hands dirty, use tools, learn life skills and in the end earn their very own bike.
That place exists here in Green Bay.
The Earn A Bike program was launched by the Green Bay Bicycle Collective (or GBBC) as a pilot program in 2018.
“We started out as a bike club and wanted to see more bike activities in Green Bay, so we started hosting group rides open to everyone,” said Heather Gentry, president and co-founder of GBBC. “As interest grew, so did our involvement in the advocacy side of biking.”
The community bike shop is located at 418 Fourth Street – off South Broadway.
The building is owned by the City of Green Bay, but is leased to the GBBC for $1 a year.
“That’s a huge show of support,” Gentry said. “Because of this, we were able to start the Earn A Bike program.”
The Earn A Bike program is geared toward children ages 10 to 17.
The first to participate in the program was a group of boys from the Advocates for Healthy Transitional Living, a foster care and at-risk youth support organization.
Participants come to the shop from 9 a.m. to noon on Fridays and learn bike safety and maintenance – including tire maintenance, brake upkeep, helmet safety and life skills.
“Once they’ve demonstrated proficiency in those skills, they earn a bicycle,” Gentry said.
A minimum of 12 hours of volunteering is required to earn a bike.
Graduates are welcome to volunteer longer in order to upgrade or update their bikes.
Children younger than 10 are able to earn a bike through a bike safety rodeo.
Since its launch in 2018, 18 bikes have been earned through the program.
As a non-profit, all bikes earned through the program are refurbished bikes that have been donated.
“The revenue pays the bills to keep the shop open,” Gentry said. “Anything else we need, we either fundraise for or our sponsors donate.”
Donations are a key part of the program. The GBBC takes any and all kinds of bikes.
No bike? No problem. There are other ways to help.
“People can make monetary donations by becoming a member, and we love it when folks donate their time by volunteering during shop hours,” Gentry said.
The Earn A Bike program was recently awarded a $5,000 grant from the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation.
“The grant specifically staffs the Earn A Bike program,” Gentry said. “Our instructors are certified in bicycle safety by the League of American Cyclists.”
Earn A Bike is the only bicycle-focused non-profit in the Greater Green Bay area.
“We have a growing undeserved community and we believe biking is a simple, effective and sustainable option for transportation,” Gentry said. “We are absolutely thrilled with the support we’ve received both from the community and the city. Our local officials understand the importance of multi-modal transportation and are increasing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Now we just have to educate community members, so they feel comfortable using these options.”
More information and a participation application can be found on the GBBC website at gbbicycle.org.