When is a simple bike shop a catalyst to developing successful youth?
When said bike shop is Lorain County Community Action Agency (LCCAA) Bike Shop. The “call-it-what-it-is” name for the retail location is about as understated as the impacts the LCCAA Bike Shop realizes. You see, the LCCAA Bike Shop is part of a development program for underserved youth in the community where restoring and selling bikes is simply a tactic to a larger strategy.
OPAE sat down with Joshua Smith, LCCAA Youth Director, to learn more about the LCCAA Bike Shop and what its true purpose really is.
OPAE: Joshua, thank you for your time today. Let’s start with this…why a bike shop?
We’ve always had youth programs as part of our organization, but we were looking to enhance that program. We wanted to provide a growth experience that really instills life skills within the youth we serve. So we thought something where we work with our hands as well as learn the ins and outs of business would be a good fit.
OPAE: So, what is the goal of the bike shop?
It’s life skills. It’s work ethic. It’s discovering self-pride. Our goal is to give our youth the tools, experience, and confidence they need to start getting ahead in life. Their time at the bike shop is pretty comprehensive as our participants actually learn how to run a business. We teach them how to repair bikes. We teach them about customer service, profit & loss, financials, management, record keeping. All that back-room stuff that keeps a business humming…we want our youth to be exposed to that.
OPAE: How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your business/program?
Like everyone else, we had to shut down. And unfortunately, a bike shop isn’t considered an “essential need”, so we remained closed like most businesses. That was disheartening because we aren’t just a bike shop. We are a resource for these young people…a safe haven.
But as the pandemic raged on, things started to get complicated. Like other communities, the emergence of the “new poor” pushed safety-net resources to the brink. Our food pantry was terribly understaffed and over-needed, as food pantries are typically run by volunteers, many of whom are elderly and needed to stay home for safety. So the youth program pivoted to help Second Harvest Foodbank. The team assisted with Second Harvest’s mobile food pantries and within the organization’s warehouse
OPAE: And now that things are starting to get back to normal?
Oh, we are open as a bike shop again. We are still helping the foodbank as well. But our regular programming is in place. We have anywhere from six to ten people aged 16 to 24 working at the shop. And actually, now that we are open again, we could use some more young people to get involved with us.
The Lorain County Community Action Agency Bike Shop provides bike maintenance and sales. The organization also accepts bike donations. In total, the LCCAA Bike Shop refurbishes, repairs, or sells over 100 bikes per year. Learn more about the LCCAA Bike Shop.