Each year folks gives us hundreds of bikes. Truly, our last count was at about 340. That's nearly one bike per day! We often find ourselves having too many of one type of bike. One summer we had a ton of tall road bikes and barely any 24" mountain bikes for kids. It turns out we are quite dependent on folks donating a variety of bikes throughout the year. This year we found that we had about ten too many tiny bikes (bikes with a wheel size of 16" or less). So we got to work!
Before we took a little break for the holidays, we hosted one special volunteer event at our workshop: The Holiday Bike Build. We picked out eight of our best tiny bikes and called up our friends at Pre-k International (a free, high quality preschool program down the road from us) to make sure they had eight kiddos who could use a bike for the holidays. We checked in with some of our regular volunteers and asked them to join us for an evening of fixing! Dozens of new tires, tubes, baskets, bells, and a couple chains later we had eight solid bikes ready to be dropped off the next morning. We are truly grateful for the volunteers who gave their time to make these bikes ready, safe, and like-new for our little friends! Finally, thank you to the bicycle donors each year who give bikes a new life at Open Roads. We do our best to find creative and useful ways for them to help us meet our goals and fulfill our mission each year. Thank You!
Interested in volunteering with us? We now offer monthly opportunities to do just that! Second Tuesdays are monthly volunteer sessions that run from 4-7pm and take place at our workshop on Riverview Drive. This is a great time for folks to put their skills and generosity to use by helping us complete some projects! We will have a variety of projects available for different skills and interests each month. Learn more about our January event (happening in just a few days) here. You can also take a look at our Facebook event with the schedule for the next five months here.
"How can you tell if your programs are effective? What kind of evaluation tools does Open Roads use?" These are excellent questions, my friends.
Today I'm going to tell you all about a fantastic group Open Roads has been working with over the past few years and one of the evaluation tools we use to determine program quality.
The Kalamazoo Youth Development Network (also called KYDNet for short) supports organizations like ours that serve youth.
KYDNet hosts monthly network meetings to connect us with partners, provides learning resources, visits and evaluates our programs in action, and provides follow-up support and improvement planning tools. We are truly grateful to have this FREE support system in place. We started working with them in early 2014 and have continued to improve our overall program quality with their support. Below we are going to show you two sets of data. These are two sets of scores (one from 2015 and one from 2017) of the Youth Program Quality Assessment.
As you can see, our levels of Interaction and Engagement have greatly improved over the last two years. Those changes came from detailed planning and feedback sessions with our Youth Advisory Board and staff team. Here we have a summary of ways we increased levels of interaction and engagement for student participants:
For example, because of YPQA and KYDNet support, journaling is now an regular part of the learning process for students. It helps them process social skills they learned that day, practice self-awareness and other important Social Emotional Learning skills, and it helps our Instructors get to know our students and their needs on a more personal level.
Thank you for taking some time to learn a little bit about how we evaluate our program quality. We have multiple ways we evaluate each of our programs, and YPQA is just one of them. If you have any specific questions or comments, please leave them below!
Last night some of our staff and volunteers surprised our Youth Advisory Board with an Open Roads Friendsgiving! We shared a meal and what we were each thankful for. It's safe to say we are all thankful for you, our followers and supporters, for bringing us all together to build and earn bikes, meet new friends, and develop stronger social skills! Today is Giving Tuesday, and a perfect time to contribute to this work.
We're sure you're wondering why you should give some of your hard-earned money to Open Roads, and we are so happy to tell you why that's a good idea.
This week our post comes from the Open Roads Program Manager, Mr. Dave Brown! "When I started working at Open Roads this past June, I started to think more about what a bike was to me and to the young people we serve. What is a bike? It's a combination of simple machines assembled to propel a human forward. It is also a mode of transportation, a tool, a form of recreation and it defines people’s lifestyles.
I think back to my memory as a kid, and a bike for me was freedom! I could roam the neighborhood and go over to friends houses on my own. There were no bounds where my bike and I could go. Curbs, gravel parking lots, tree roots, and rocks made some of the most fun spots to jump over. I look at how my life on a bike changed when I was finally able to drive, I stopped riding my bike to school or to friend’s houses. I started carting my bike to trailheads in my vehicle. Riding became less of a necessity and more recreation. While that is not a bad thing, I miss the purity of those days: “Just a kid and his bike!” That is one thing I am trying to regain as an adult- trying to balance the time I have to use my vehicle vs. when I can be a little more relaxed on arrival and departure times and ride my bike more places.
There is something freeing about riding your bike to places you normally whiz by at 30-40 mph. To borrow the words of Drew one of our Youth Board Members, “You see more when on a bike instead of driving a car”. I always find myself a happier human when I ride my bikes. So a challenge to myself (and to you!) is to ride your bike more. For whatever reason- to commute or just for the pure enjoyment of it all!"
After approximately 16 variations and drafts, a collective statement of Diversity & Inclusion has been created by our Youth Advisory Board, staff team, and the Board of Directors. A total of 31 members of our team weighed in! Each group discussed what having (and making) an official statement means for them, as well as what it means for future program participants and their families, staff members, volunteers, and supporters. After months of collaborative fine-tuning, we have come up with a statement we are proud of:
Open Roads Bike Program embraces and values the diversity of Kalamazoo and the world around us. We are people of all ages, from all walks of life, working together to use bicycles as a vehicle for skill development and community engagement. We encourage people of all abilities, ages, economic statuses, faiths, ideologies, genders, gender identities, ethnic origins, nationalities, races, and sexual orientations to be a part of the Open Roads Bike Program community.
Below you can see some the people who created this statement for Open Roads. We have 7/8 Youth Board members represented, 9/10 staff represented, and 12/13 Board of Directors represented here (not everyone has photos on file with us quite yet). THANK YOU to everyone at Open Roads who continues to put time and energy into fostering a culture and environment that is equitable and inclusive. This official statement is a step in the right direction for our organization, and we are moving forward with some big, important goals in mind.
We have some incredible people who volunteer their time at Open Roads and once in awhile we have the chance to get together to share a meal and work on some projects. In the past, these events have been called Bikes & Breakfast and typically take place on Saturday mornings. With an increasingly busy program schedule, we thought we would try out a weekday evening and grill out instead- what a success!
Keith (Retail Coordinator) and Dave (Program Manager) gathered a handful of willing volunteers to work on building some storage shelves and sorting our bins of used parts. We were so grateful for everyone who showed up to get this work done. Alone, these projects would have taken us days if not weeks to accomplish. With our volunteer team it got done in two hours!
One of the best parts for us was seeing so many of our new and long-time friends meeting one another, teaching each other new skills (like how to use an impact drill) and even exchanging contact information by the end of the night. All of our volunteers showed up alone to serve- and by the end of the evening it looked and sounded like we had a handful of old friends on our hands. Thank you to Rose, Paige, Rajat, Paul, Kevin, Tim, Jason, Paul (Doc), Suzanne, and Ethan for coming out!
To receive information about future opportunities to volunteer your time with Open Roads, please visit our Volunteer page to learn more or complete our Volunteer Application form.
The "Writings from the Road" blog will help you stay up to date with the who, what, and where of Open Roads every week!
Types of content you can expect to see from us:
FOR EXAMPLE: Wondering what happens with the bikes we receive that are a little "too loved"? We have volunteers who take them apart, scrap the metal, and save the good parts so that when young people (like our friends below) stop by our workshop and need a seat or a replacement tire on a random Friday afternoon, we have parts available for them to earn.
Shoutout to David Taylor and Dave Brown for their patience and willingness to do three things at once so these kids could get back on the trail and roads safely a couple of weeks back!
Posts Provided By:
Erin Denay, Executive Director - In Coordination with: Open Roads staff and board members, youth and parents, and dedicated program partners