At the Carpenter Street Community Bike Shop, Binghampton kids are building bikes -- and possible careers. Through a 10-week volunteer program, the "Bicycle Fellows" learn basic mechanics for maintenance and repair at local shops.
Carpenter Street in Binghampton has been sowing the seeds of neighborhood revitalization since the Carpenter Art Garden was founded in 2012. Now through collaboration between Clark Butcher, owner of Victory Bicycle Studio in Memphis, and Erin Harris, founder of the Carpenter Art Garden, the wheels of change are turning with a fresh project, the Carpenter Street Community Bike Shop.
“A $50,000 grant from the Plough Foundation helped pave the way for the shop space,” explained Harris. “The Carpenter Street Community Bike Shop at 296 Carpenter Street will be open to the public for five hours each week: The Build a Bike Program will be hosted from 6:30 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday, and we will have Open Shop Hours every Sunday, from 2 to 4 p.m.”
Participants in the Build a Bike program will be able to build their own used bicycle under the supervision of Executive Director Anthony Siracusa, founder of Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop and president of Bike Walk Tennessee. To be eligible to participate in the program, each person must serve as a volunteer at the bike shop for 10 hours. While giving their time as volunteers, participants will learn the parts of a bicycle, as well as the basic mechanics for maintenance and repair.
Executive Director Anthony Siracusa
“After completing their volunteer service hours, participants will be allowed to select a used bike to begin repairing for their own use,” explained Siracusa. “Volunteer coordinators will offer guidance and supervision for up to eight hours per person, with the goal of having a working bicycle at the end of that time.”
Once the rebuilt bicycles are ready to be taken out for a spin, Siracusa has plans in place to help teach riders the rules of the road and other bike-related information.
“Having a working bike is just the start of what we want to bring to our program participants,” said Siracusa. “We will offer 50 hours of classroom training and 50 hours of in-shop experience for those selected to be in our Bicycle Fellows Training Program. This 10-week job training program will offer graduates the opportunity to continue learning the trade by working with local bike shops like Butcher’s Victory Bicycle Studio, which also serves as 3T Cycling’s U.S. Repair and Customer Service Center, as well as other shops like The Peddler, Midtown Bikes, Bikes Plus, Bike World, All About Bikes and Bike the Planet.”
"What we are doing here is innovative,” said Butcher. “Sure, there are Community Bike Shops that exist all over the world. Not one of them offers a way to retain the talent they trained. We are doing just that at the Carpenter Street Community Bike Shop— offering a skill set to those who need and appreciate it most, and then providing a direct career path should they want to pursue it."
The community is being asked to donate bicycles and bicycle-related materials and tools. Donations can be brought to the Carpenter Street Community Bike Shop during its hours of operation, or dropped off at the Carpenter Art Garden Purple House, 295 Carpenter, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Siracusa says there is also a need for regular volunteers to mentor the Bicycle Fellows, help with web and social media, and assistance with a variety of other activities. Interested in learning more about the Carpenter Street Community Bike Shop? Contact Siracusa at firstname.lastname@example.org.