KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — One East Tennessee nonprofit is working to make sure everyone has access to transportation by distributing bicycles to students, to people experiencing homelessness and to anyone in need.
Kickstand Community Bike Shop is working to expand its reach to local schools.
Paul Laudeman is a driving force and volunteer for the nonprofit. While biking through Europe, he became inspired to be a part of a bike collective providing to those in need in the Knoxville area.
"It's just a good feeling, you know. I love bicycles," he said.
Kickstand collects used bikes through donations, bike drives and partnerships. They then repair the bikes before distributing them to people who may face challenges getting around. Volunteers help the nonprofit with its mission.
"All the volunteers here have that in their heart. First of all, they like to help folks but many of us we like to just fix things, get them back in order," said Lauedeman."We work with the government, they pull them out of the waste stream at the dump. This one was at the dump."
Picking up a new bike for her daughter, Jennifer Riley said it’s a great place for growing kids when they outgrow their current bike. It’s a great place to leave the outgrown one too.
"She's riding a tricycle now but she sees the big neighbor kids with the big bikes so we decided it might be time for her to move up to a bigger bike," Riley said.
She was at the bike shop to surprise her daughter with a big-kid bike. She also partners with the bike collective in her role at Friends of Literacy, another local nonprofit.
"Just being able to physically be able to move your body in a certain way can have an impact on your academics as well," Riley said.
The two organizations team up to host a books and bikes event for children in need.
"They'll get the best of both worlds. They'll get to pick some books to take home and some bikes from Kickstand as well," Riley said.
Kickstand partners with the Boys and Girls Club and YWCA and they said they’re looking for more children to provide them to.
"You can't just go grab kids off the street and say here, 'Here's a bike!'” Laudeman said.
Now expanding its reach to area schools, Kickstand wants to give as many young people the opportunity to ride as she can. New Market Elementary school Principal Jacob Bellissimo said he’s excited to partner with Kickstand.
"We talked about how we can make that as a part of an incentive at our school," Bellissimo said.
New Market Elementary school has what's called a 'Rocking Rep' expectation.
"We expect students to be respectful, responsible, engaged and prepared," he said.
And those Rocking Reps in need could land themselves a bike through Kickstand.
"Having that strong community support, caring people, and working together for students is what we're all about," Bellissimo said.
The next “Books and Bikes” event is coming in May. Kickstand Collective headquarters is located on Holston Drive.
It's looking for volunteers who like to tinker or want to learn how to repair bikes. If you’re not into tinkering, there are lots of community planning volunteer opportunities too. Check out their website if you’d like to learn more.