The Spoke Folk Community Bicycle Program opened its doors almost eight years ago in the lower level of the Iglesia Getsemani building located at the corner of 5th Street and Central Avenue in the City of Dunkirk (Spoke Folk has since moved to 819 Central Avenue, where it currently shares building space with ASPIRE of Western New York). In response to the perceived community need for a neighborhood bicycle repair facility and skills development center, The Spoke Folk initiative was built on the assumption that a volunteer staff could be recruited and adequately trained to make the following programs and services available to area residents:
- The Bike Lab — A series of on-going workshops dealing with all levels of bicycle maintenance and repair, with specially designed units for youth of all ages.
- Earn a Bike Program – An opportunity for members of the community to “earn a bike” by volunteering at either Spoke Folk or one of several partnering organizations.
- Recycle A Bicycle – A program dedicated to the restoration of donated and discarded bicycles for redistribution to community based organizations and those members of the community with limited financial resources in need of alternative forms of transportation.
- Wheel People – An organization for those interested in the discussion of environmental issues, alternative forms of transportation, health and fitness, bicycle safety and advocacy, etc. Programming would include the scheduling of speakers, forums and workshops, and the formation of specialized clubs and discussion groups.
Since opening its doors, the Spoke Folk Project has accomplished the following:
- Recruited and trained a dedicated cadre of adult volunteers who contribute approximately 75 hours of service each week, fifty-two weeks per year.
- Restored and returned more than eight hundred (800) bicycles to the community, including several modified bikes for use by special needs classes within the Dunkirk School District and by members of the community with developmental disabilities.
- Provided children’s bicycles to the Rural Ministry and Salvation Army for Christmas distribution (approximately forty per year).
- Served as a repair center for clients of the Dunkirk Resource Center, The Chautauqua County Office of Mental Health, residents of area group home facilities, etc.
- Provided instruction in basic bicycle maintenance and repair to numerous area residents, including youth participating in activities sponsored by the local Boys and Girls Club and the Dunkirk Public Schools 21st Century Grant Program.
- Served as a host organization for the Chautauqua Works Summer Youth Program.
- Distributed more than 1100 bicycle helmets to area children.
- Provided walk-in assistance to scores of community members in need of bicycle related help.
- Saved numerous unwanted bicycles from burial in local landfills.
- Disseminated a wide variety of informational pamphlets relating to bicycle repair, health and fitness, local bicycle routes, etc.
- Served as a stopping off point and information center for long distance bicycle tourists traveling through our area.
- Planning is currently underway to launch a youth run bicycle shop during the spring of 2015. In addition to learning basic bicycle assembly and repair skills, participants will be exposed to such small business principles as inventory control, pricing, marketing, book keeping, banking, and human relations This new initiative will be incorporated into a larger project called The Bicycle Assembler’s Workshop, which has been training area youth and adults for the past several years.
- Meals on Two Wheels – Launched in early summer of 2009, the Meals on Two Wheels Project uses bicycles and bicycle trailers to deliver hot and nutritious meals to the homes of Dunkirk residents unable to cook for themsleves. Assigned a regular route normally serviced by volunteers driving automobiles, the use of bicycles proved to be equally as efficient as cars, with the aadded benefit of being environmentally friendly. It is hoped that next spring additional Meals on Two Wheels routes will be explored and will involve youth from area schools. Meals on Two Wheels recently completed its 6th Successful season.
Spoke Folk was the recipient of the Stell 2009 Community Service Award, received an in-kind grant and national recognition from the WD-40 Corporation, received a CDBG Grant from the City of Dunkirk, and has been approached by a unit of the Tanzanian government to assist in the creation of bicycle program, based on Spoke Folk model, in that country.
The Spoke Folk Community Bicycle Project is a non-profit organization under the sponsorship of the State University of New York Research Foundation. Project funds are on deposit with, and managed by the SUNY Fredonia Office of Sponsored Programs.
How can I become involved?
Volunteers are always needed. For more information about how to become involved with Spoke Folk, please email us at email@example.com or give us a call at 716-673-5834.