235 N. Madison Street | Allentown, PA 18102 | 610.434.1140
home page photo credit: Sasha Phyars-Burgess
began in June 1994 with a letter to Allentown bike shop owner and former teacher Stefan Goslawski. The letter, from an 81-year old woman, included an article about a bike mechanics program in Indianapolis that worked with inner-city students to foster positive outcomes. “Wouldn’t it be neat,” she wrote, “if Allentown had such a program.” Stefan felt he was being given a message and a mission.
Just two months later, Stefan met with Bill Seaman, Executive Director of the Lehigh County Conference of Churches. Although Bill was enthusiastic, he said it would take many months for his board to approve taking Community Bike Works under the LCCC umbrella. The following month, on September 13, 1994, the Conference of Churches voted to take us under their wing. The message and the mission were reaffirmed.
In the early years, 65 young people a year were served by Earn a Bike, which was housed in a small rented storefront at 639 Turner Street. In May of 2000 we purchased our much larger and better equipped facility, allowing us to serve more young people.
In 2015, at the time we celebrated our 20th year, approximately 350 students were participate in Earn a Bike classes each year. Nearly 3,500 students had participated in Earn a Bike between 1995 and 2015, with 2,835 (81%) of them having earned their bikes. In those years, students spent 120,000 hours at Bike Works (that's the equivalent of 13.5 years, round-the-clock). Amazingly, volunteers had donated a total of 44,400 hours--worth $1,024,000!
In 2016, Community Bike Works expanded, opening our second bike shop in Allentown's East Allentown neighborhood. We serve 150 students in Earn a Bike and Junior Earn a Bike out of our East Allentown shop, bringing the total number of students served in our core bike mentoring programs to more than 500 each year. We have also in recent years significantly expanded the cycling opportunities available to students, allowing them to experience the benefits of regular physical activity and team sports, while spending additional time with mentors.
Earn a Bike remains about each individual student. “It’s all about the community at Community Bike Works," says Michelle, 13. "Everyone here is always caring for someone else. Earn a Bike is awesome because I learned the different parts of a bike and what to do if it breaks. At Earn a Bike graduation, I said ‘I wish I could come here every day.’ Staff talked to me about being a volunteer, and now I'm here all the time, helping others learn what I know.”