In a world without COVID-19, you might find Joe Tucker, executive director of South Street Ministries, fixing bikes alongside 50 to 100 kids at pastor Duane Crabbs’s home in Summit Lake. The sound of screwdrivers and bike chains traveling through the summer air is familiar to Tucker, who has led the bike program for more than 10 years.
“My personal favorite thing to watch a kid do is complete a bike,” he says. “I love when a kid finishes work on a bike completely by themselves. Even something as simple as ‘I changed my own flat tire.’ Seeing a kid do that is really, really cool because they accomplish something tactile. And they did it themselves. And they know how to do it next time.”
The bike program, which was started by Duane Crabbs and Liam Murray, began 20 years ago. Over the last two decades, the program has helped thousands of kids obtain free bikes while also teaching them how to fix them.
Volunteers typically meet Monday and Wednesday evenings. During that time, a child picks out a bike, then works with a volunteer to fix it.
This year, the process is a little different.
“This summer, we’re doing bike shop on the road,” Tucker says. “We’re doing most of the repairs here with our volunteers, putting the bikes in our vans and driving around and finishing the repairs with the kids. We’re doing little tutorials. The kids aren’t really working for it this summer, but they’ve had a tough summer, so they deserve it.”
The program typically works with between 150 and 300 kids each summer. It typically runs from June through August, but Tucker is thinking about extending it through the fall to allow kids more time outdoors given the current COVID-19 restrictions.
Bike Shop is open to any kid from Akron, but preference is given to youth from Summit Lake, South Akron and Kenmore. They’re always looking for volunteers and donated bikes. Sign up for a free bike or to be a volunteer by visiting southstreetministries.org, or emailing Tucker at Joe@southstreetministries.org.