BELLE GLADE – Saturday, Oct. 7, was a special day for the children involved with JTK Bike Shop program in Belle Glade, as the young people enjoyed their first bike ride to Torrey Island on bicycles they had helped to repair themselves.
Dawn Donaldson has lived and volunteered in Belle Glade for years. “Last December, I was inspired by group of local kids riding through town on bikes they fixed up,” she explained. “They looked so happy and free! I began to contemplate what goals could be achieved if they had adult direction in fixing these bikes. I envisioned bringing some tools and helping them out of the back of my Jeep. However, a bigger plan was in the works!
“Chuck and Eric Royal have provided us with a storefront space in the Goodwill Plaza,” she continued. “We began work on the space the third week in June and although we do not have any air conditioning, we have made tremendous progress. We have taken in over 50 donated bikes, which we have cobbled together to provide all 15 kids on our roster with a working bike to own as well as smaller bikes for younger children.”
The program is incorporated as BG Bikes Building Futures, Inc. dba JTK Bike Shop, Inc.
“Our nonprofit status is pending (expected in two weeks) and we bank at Bank of Belle Glade and are fully financially transparent,” said Ms. Donaldson.
“We have watched local folks come together to help us reach this point in the project and we are so grateful. We teach the children to repair and earn their own bicycle as well as the necessary skills to succeed in life. Accountability, responsibility, respect as well as many other positive character traits are taught alongside tools and bike repair. We also have a policy that each child must repair a bike for a friend or family member and give that away before they can take their bicycle home. There is joy in helping others and these kids are living that. The most amazing part of this project is that it is not affiliated with any church or government agency.”
JTK Bike Shop is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 2-7 p.m. At the end of a busy day of fixing bicycles, the group has a family-style meal together right there in the bike shop kitchen. Afterwards they all help with cleanup chores.
The group also has a time of community fun with games like “minute to win it” games or lighting sky lanterns and remembering loved who are gone.
“JTK Bike Shop has already made an impact in these young lives and we look forward to continuing this project until the kids are old enough to run it on their own. JTK Bike Shop is their legacy and provides future goals for them to aspire to,” she said.
“Some of the generous help we have received has come from Mr. John Griffin. John Griffin has lived in Belle Glade all his life and one day he unintentionally stumbled upon our humble bike shop. Since that day, he has come alongside us to help in ways I never would have imagined,” Ms. Donaldson continued. “Most recently, John has partnered with BG Alliance Church and Okeelanta Sugar to sponsor a chicken dinner fundraiser on Saturday, Oct 21, at the Belle Glade Alliance Church, 425 E. Canal Street. This fundraiser is to raise the necessary money for the repair of our commercial air conditioning unit. We are hoping that with an air conditioned space, we will attract more volunteers to share their unique gifts with our kids,” she said.
Tickets for the dinner are $10, to be purchased in advance, and the meals can be picked up from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., or donated to local families in need.
Ms. Donaldson said the program currently has 15 young people involved, which is the maximum number they can serve with the current volunteers. She said they need more volunteers which would allow them to expand the program to more children.
“We are looking forward to growing and shaping the character of more young lives with lots of help from the local community,” she said.
To donate, volunteer or for more information on JTK Bike Shop, contact Dawn Donaldson by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone at 561)312-8575 or at JTK Bike Shop, 233 West Avenue A, Suite B.