ARLINGTON, Va. -- In Arlington, Virginia, the hotspot for middle school boys on a Friday night is a 600-square foot bike shop in Barcroft Park. When you walk inside, you’ll find boys and their mentors fixing up dozens of bicycles.
“I’ve been a part of this program for a year and a half now,” said Danny Cooper, a seventh grader. “It’s really rewarding.”
Instead of hanging out on the couch playing video games or going to the movies, Danny spends his evening retooling the bike he earned through Phoenix Bikes, a non-profit.
Phoenix Bikes is run by Executive Director Meg Rapelye. She spent six years in the Coast Guard before taking over the program which has now been around for 11 years.
“We’re small but mighty,” said Rapelye.
Phoenix Bikes promotes education, biking and community building for about 500 young people a year. It gives them a safe place to be after school and in the summer.
“This empowers them to have a lifelong form of affordable transportation good for the environment and their bodies,” said Rapeyle.
The program also teaches the young men about hard work. Each participant must earn their bike by putting in hours learning how to refurbish a bicycle for someone in need.
“I think it’s really, really cool to see the person walk away really satisfied with their bike,” said 14-year-old Darius Tucker.
Some of those bikes go to the Offender Aid and Restoration program of Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church. Ex-offenders get those bikes so they have a reliable way to get to their new jobs as they transition out of incarceration.
“Having a bike from Phoenix Bikes allows them to keep their job…we often hear stories from our participants particularly about how that bike has changed their lives,” said OAR Executive Director Elizabeth Jones Valderrama.
All of the programs at Phoenix Bikes are free, but that takes the generosity of the community.
“A donation goes a long way,” said Rapeyle. “It will go toward a lock to be able to give to a graduate of our program. It will go toward a helmet for a kid in our program and keep all of our programs and services free to our participants.”
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