This past Monday, I dropped by the UWSP Volunteer Fair to chat with the folks who run Shifting Gears, the community bicycle shop that opened in Stevens Point last summer. To get a better understanding of what Shifting Gears is about, Poky Pedalers can read my blog post about their open house from last summer.
I visited their shop several times in the late summer and early fall to see how they were doing. At that time, I discovered that they were undergoing a lot of churn as they were working through the process of getting organized. Little, if any, public outreach from Shifting Gears has been apparent since then. Perhaps this is an expected phase for a project as ambitious as starting up a community bike shop.
For this reason, I was very pleased to learn of their participation at the UWSP Volunteer Fair.
At the fair I spoke with Kurt Helminiak, Director of Offender Services for JusticeWorks, who is responsible for the operation of Shifting Gears. Shifting Gears is owned by JusticeWorks, and part of the mission of Shifting Gears is to provide useful employment-oriented skills to the ex-offenders who are the focus of JusticeWorks efforts.
Helminiak informed me that Shifting Gears is looking for volunteers to repair the hundreds of bicycles that have been donated to them. These reconditioned bikes will then become available for sale to the public. Those who are willing to trade sweat equity for a bicycle may be able to volunteer a certain number of hours in exchange for a reliable transportation vehicle.
Volunteers of all skill levels are welcome. Helminiak said that those with extensive bicycle repair skills will be extremely helpful, but that even those who have never put a wrench to an axle bolt can be taught how to help and increase their skill set.
Helminiak also told me that they have plans for community repair nights, where anyone can bring in their own bicycle, get advice on how to work on it, and use the shop tools to perform repairs and upgrades. They generally want to become a community resource for those who bicycle, regardless of skill level or economic status.
For those interested in volunteering with Shifting Gears, contact Helminiak at kurt (dot) helminiak (at) justiceworksltd (dot) org. You can also stop by the shop located at 2116 Wood St at the corner with Shaurette St on the west side of the street – look for their sign on a door of the large brick building. Current hours are on Fridays from 10AM-2PM, but Helminiak says they plan to be open more hours as the weather warms. Check out their Facebook page to learn more.
I look forward to seeing Shifting Gears become a valuable community asset for Poky Pedalers.
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