Unique program at HHS has students repairing bikes, which are then donated back into the communityThe air smells like WD-40. The carpet is covered with a big blue tarp. The sound of instruction is intermittently interrupted by an air compressor. And the pressure is on. Class will be over in 10 minutes. How much more productivity can be squeezed out of the final few minutes before the tools have to be put away? How many more bikes can be fixed?
By: Chad Richardson, The Hastings Star-Gazette
The air smells like WD-40. The carpet is covered with a big blue tarp. The sound of instruction is intermittently interrupted by an air compressor. And the pressure is on.
Class will be over in 10 minutes. How much more productivity can be squeezed out of the final few minutes before the tools have to be put away? How many more bikes can be fixed?
This is, believe it or not, a high school class. Four students dance around the flipped over bike frames, past a few couches and over to the toolbox. They’re in a youth room at Calvary Christian Church, where they are hard at work fixing bicycles. The brakes don’t work on some. The tires are flat on others. Chains are a garbled mess on a few. The bikes, which would otherwise be trashed, are rehabbed by this group of students. They are then given back to the community, one way or another.
It’s a unique program, headed at HHS by Kathee Zeien as part of a community-based serving learning class. She and her special education students get out and about in the community, performing a variety of tasks. They volunteer at the Veterans Home. They work with the city’s parks and recreation department, and they volunteer at Carpenter Nature Center. And, one day a week, they fix bikes.
Last Wednesday was one of those days devoted to bikes. Dozens have been donated to the Salvation Army in Hastings over the past few months, and all were in disrepair. The students have taken those bikes in and worked with Zeien and Calvary Christian’s pastor, Randy Berg, to get them back into working order.
Bolstered by a $750 ‘What-if’ grant by the Hastings Public Schools Foundation, the team of six has spare parts at the ready. There are brakes, tires, tubes, chains, pedals, tools and everything else needed to run a bike shop. Over the past three years, since the program started, Zeien and her class have repaired 118 bikes. Some go to Hastings Family Service, where they are donated to the community. Others have been fixed for the men at the Veterans Home.
One time, the class heard from a local man whose three-wheel bicycle had been stolen. They were able to find an old one from a classmate, get it fixed up and donated back to the man. They crafted a handmade Christmas card for him and delivered it to him, along with the bike.
The students involved in the project are learning about more than just bike repairs. Along the way they are picking up life skills, lessons on teamwork and how to have a good work ethic.
“We all work together,” class member Ellie Knapp said.
“It’s a team effort, Zeien said. “They take a lot of pride in this.”
In seeing their donations go right back into Hastings, Zeien said the classmates have more of a sense of community pride and they’ve all found some confidence, too.
Berg’s assistance has been instrumental to keeping the project moving. The use of the youth center at Calvary Christian is key, as is his expertise when it comes to making the repairs. Berg is also plugged into the church community and he often hears of people in tough times who are seeking transportation for themselves, or bikes for their children. Berg is often picking up donations with his bright red truck, too.
“Randy has been so generous with his time, and with the use of the building,” Zeien said. “We can’t say enough about Randy.”
Another big component of the program was the 2011 grant by the HPSF, titled “Learn to Earn.” That cash allowed for the purchase of parts still being used today.
In a letter to the foundation, Zeien wrote:
“Students’ attendance has improved, interpersonal and community skills have improved, the importance of teamwork is evident, job readiness and work skills have improved, the ability to accept constructive criticism from co-workers and supervisors is evident, and building the spirit of active involvement through volunteerism in their own community is definitely obvious. … Several students are now actually volunteering in the community on their own.”
Anyone who has a bicycle to donate to the program should contact either Kathee Zeien at 651-480-7571 or Pastor Randy Berg at 651-246-4433.
Anyone who needs a bicycle should contact Hastings Family Service at 651-437-7134.