GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – May is National Bike Month, and the League of American Bicyclists have noted that cycling is one of the healthier, cheaper, and more Eco-friendly forms of transportation. The non-profit bike shop, Village Wrench, in West Greenville has proven bikes can serve an even greater purpose, furthering community engagement and empowerment.
The Village Wrench bike shop gave Joseph Hanson and Eric Archibald free bikes, through its Earn-A-Bike Program, after they completed numerous hours of community service. These men are among the seven men in Homes of Hope’s year long residency program, Men’s Workforce Development Program. The pair explained that they’re not allowed cars during their stay at Homes of Hope, so Village Wrench’s free bikes have helped.
“I did not cycle at all. Not one bit,”Hanson explained. He’s been with Homes of Hope for three months now and says he’s appreciated the simplicity and importance of having a bike. Hanson’s also more proud that he earned his bike through helping the community versus a hand out.
“Earning the bike has really connected me to Village Wrench with their ministry,” Hanson noted.” Just help out others and it’s helped out myself through my fitness. Since we’re very limited in how we get around, it’s helped me get around.”
Archibald has been allowed to join Homes of Hope for another year, he’s in his sixth month as Resident Assistant this time around. He explained that getting the bike has done wonders for his health.
“Sometimes we’re doing over 100 miles a week. We go on bike rides several times a week and I personally have lost 25 pounds in the last six months,” Archibald said.
The seven men cycle together practically everywhere, worksites, the gym, church, and anywhere else. Hanson and Archibald pointed out that the bikes gave them an additional layer of freedom in their road to recovery.
Homes of Hope is an organization that provides affordable homes to families in need while helping men continue their sobriety through biblical-based discipleship, life skills, and training in construction and electrical equipment.
Thus, while Homes of Hope provided a trade skill and Village Wrench taught bike maintenance (part of the deal to earn the free bike) both created upward mobility for these men. This mobility is part of a chain reaction for the community.
The men build houses for lower-income families, while easily managing their main source of transportation, those families then can help others in the community. This all started, in part, due to a free bike. Village Wrench’s Program Director, Jessica Compton, said she couldn’t be more proud.
“These men have been empowered to be living lives with purpose and with freedom and they’re doing that through a bicycle,”she explained.
Homes of Hope is one of Village Wrench’s 10 official nonprofit community partners. The two nonprofits support helping community members, who in turn help others. Archibald said he’s grateful and all the men have planned to pay it forward.
“Now we want to start helping them and just the community, the people that come up here. I came up here when I got my bike, there were 30 bikes in here and 27 of them were on their way out the door because they were giving them to a class of kids,” Archibald explained.
Compton noted on average they already store anyway from 50 to 100 bicycles at a time. Therefore, Village Wrench will be moving to a warehouse nearby to continue expanding, giving additional space for the youth programs and community work stations.
“Where we have workbenches, so people can come work on their bicycles themselves and have access to our tools, that’s a big part of what we previously did and will be doing at an expanded level,” Compton said.
Those who are interested in using the workspace, earning a free bike, or getting rid of an old bike have the chance to do so. Compton explained that Village Wrench takes old bike parts and builds brand new bikes for sale or to earn through their free bike program.
“To know that other people’s lives are being improved through the platform of a bicycle, and that we’re just kind-of the hub to be able to make sure that they can do that, and to stay in relationship with them, that’s the best,” Compton said.
Interested parties can apply online or hand in a paper application for the Earn-A-Bike Program. Afterwards, you must do anywhere from 10 to 20 hours of community service at a location of your choosing.
“Anything you’re passionate about and you know is going to be serving the community. You can do that,” Compton said.
Children in kindergarten through 5th grade need to do at least 5 hours of community service for their free bike. All parties are asked to do at least 4 hours at Village Wrench, where you’ll learn basic bike maintenance, which also helps them care for their refurbished bikes in the warehouse. The volunteer hours equate to dollars in a pretty big way.
“10 hours approximately earns you about $100 dollar bicycle. And then 20 hours, $200 dollar bicycle depending on what we have in stock,” Compton said.
If you’re not interested in getting a free bike, but are interested in helping out Compton added that the nonprofit always needs help. There are volunteer nights twice a month and afternoon shifts once a week. Community members are also invited to donate old bike parts or money.
The nonprofit has hosted fundraisers as well. The newest event, Village Quench, still combines bikes with community outreach, through a Tour de France food and wine watch party. For more information on that, click here.