The Bike Shop experience: A true breakfast club

Rosinette Flezinord is a junior at Glades Central Community High School who participates at JTK Bike Shop and is interested in pursuing a career in journalism.

BELLE GLADE — Out of all the places in my community, how did I end up volunteering in a bicycle shop?

I didn’t even know how to RIDE a bike! Before stepping foot into the building that would become my second home, I was just a very lazy (well to be honest, I’m still lazy!) K-POP lover who spent her free time stanning (stanning: a popular term that describe a fan loyalty and obsessiveness to a particular celebrity/group) the heck out of idol groups! I still pride myself in being that girl, because being a devoted fan takes time and dedication.

About a year ago, while looking for an opportunity to complete my high school community service hours, I walked through the door of JTK Bike Shop in the Downtown Plaza on Avenue A in Belle Glade.
It was there I met the most brave, intelligent, and vivacious woman I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, Dawn Donaldson. She is the “superwoman” behind JTK “Jesus The King” Bike Shop. She started this community project about a year and a half ago with the hopes of creating a space for kids of the community to come and learn the basic skills of fixing bicycles while also teaching them the Word of God as well as important life lessons. The hope is that the students involved will be inspired to become respectable citizens of the community. JTK Bike Shop started out as just

Ms. Dawn operating a bike shop with a bunch of clueless kids. Since then, it has morphed into a shop full of future mechanics and bike shop owners. In less than two years the bike shop has continued to thrive because of the hard-working kids. The kids are now handling all the daily operations of the bike shop. Of course, none of this would be possible without the amazing support of the community who continue to donate financially as well as providing used bicycles to be restored by the kids in the shop.

Can you imagine a bicycle shop being run by middle and high school students? Well, now you can! JTK Bike Shop is a reality right in our own neighborhood.

Dawn Donaldson’s main goal in creating the bike shop was to make a remarkable difference in these children’s’ lives; to give them a peaceful and safe environment. During the time I have been an active member of the JTK bike shop, I have witnessed the JTK kids grow and learn from that woman, and even shed a few tears on her shoulders. Nothing says “family” more than crying on a person’s shoulder and leaving mascara tears on their favorite shirt! For some of the kids, the bike shop is the closest thing they have to a functioning family.

We spend 5 hours on Friday and Saturday afternoons together as a JTK Bike Shop family. The 5 hours that are spent there allows the kids to forget whatever troubles they are facing at home, immerse themselves in their work and embrace the newfound comfort of the bike shop.

A typical day in the bike shop begins with the kids signing their names on the check-in sheet. As they wait for everyone to settle in, they indulge in light snacks that range from homemade cookies (a specialty of Ms. Dawn herself!) to pretzels and fresh fruits, such as strawberries and oranges. After snack time is adjourned, announcements are made for upcoming events that range from field trips to seasonal bike rides in the community. Then everyone goes to work on their different projects. Dinner is cooked and served by Ms. Dawn at 6 p.m. and we engage in light conversations to catch up on things while feasting on a family style meal.

It is hard for me now to imagine not coming to the shop because it is such a welcoming environment. It’s a place that can make even the most socially-awkward person feel at home.

JTK Bike Shop brings so many different kinds of individuals together working and playing as a family. There are so many cultures represented — Haitian, Hispanic, African American, and Ms. Dawn brings classic American traditions, culture and foods. This makes for a very vibrant environment as the kids are able to learn from their peers and absorb each other’s customs. The foundation of the shop is the teachings of Christ, so it is no surprise that each day the kids learn a new lesson and strengthen their faith in the “Man Upstairs.” Faithfully participating in JTK Bike Shop has absolutely been one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself. Through the conversations we have there and the lessons that we learn, this place has definitely become a safe haven for me and everyone who takes the time to participate there.

After a year of being an active member of JTK Bike Shop, I can definitely say that some of my best memories have been due to Ms. Dawn, the wonderful soul that oversees the bike shop. I have overcome my laziness and learned how to ride a bicycle! This was a big deal because the idea of riding a bike was scary to me. I have also had a chance to befriend people who I have seen in school and in the neighborhood but never bothered to interact with before. Broadening my horizons was something I never really thought I needed to do because I was so content living in my own ignorant bubble that the possibility of opening up to a new “friend circle” did not cross my mind. I mean who really needs to spend time outdoors when you’ve got YouTube and KPOP?! Social media and the internet have their perks, but they can only take you so far. While I was learning about everything and everyone on social media, I failed to realize that I was ignoring everything in my community.

Although my neighborhood is a huge factor that directly influences me, it’s the one thing that got overlooked by me the most! Since I have been involved in this community project for the past year I have grown so much as a young woman but I have also learned how to appreciate my community more and the many different faces of this new generation. JTK Bike Shop has become a place that will live on in my heart no matter where life takes me. And long after JTK is gone, the lessons learned and the love we felt will no doubt have a special place in the heart of every kid who was a part of the JTK family. JTK is our “home away from home” and after all, home and family are impossible to forget.
Writing this article has been an emotional roller coaster for me. Many times my laziness got in the way of me finishing this article. But, like Ms. Dawn has said, “When you’re working for Jesus you don’t half do your work, you work to the best of your abilities.”

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