Want to know more about the impact our Mobile Bicycle Repair workshop has on our local youth here on Mack Road? Check out the most recent blog post by our Director of Mack Road Partnership’s Bicycle Repair Program, Dean Alleger.
I’m at the same place, at the same time, on the same day of the week, 45-50 weeks of the year. I do my best to show up early, stay late, and engage everyone who stops by at the Mack Road Valley Hi Community Center. This quarter’s story is a success story in progress. It’s the story of a 23-year former foster youth who loves to ride bicycles and often seeks me out when he needs help with his gear. We are coming up on our two-year anniversary of when we “met.”
I put met in quotations because our first encounter was at The Sacramento Summer Night Lights Program where I had volunteered to run my grass track-racing program. I was standing at the start/finish line about to blow my whistle to signal the start of a race when this guy comes riding a wheelie all the way across the community center grounds, grinning ear to ear, takes a hot lap, and literally rides off into the sunset never letting his front wheel touch the ground.
The next time I encountered him was about nine months later when I started my mobile bicycle repair and helmet safety clinics at the Mack Road Valley High Community Center. He had a crazy fat tire chopper bike that needed a chain. I must admit, at first I did my best to help him out and send him on his way because I was a little intimidated by him. At first glance, he is tall, lean, strong, speaks in slang and seems to have quick temper. It turns out, I was wrong: he is smart, funny and has a big heart. We began to hit it off and I am always happy to see him come around. When he recently had his bicycle stolen, I gave him my old Specialized Stump jumper-racing bicycle that I was saving for my nephew who recently passed.
So fast forward to months later in February 2017, we’re hanging out in the tent working on bikes and having some laughs when our Sacramento Police Cops and Clergy Sergeant drops in for a little community outreach. He goes straight to this kid and asks, “What’s your name?” Jamal answers “my name’s Swerve” and the Sergeant says, “No, what’s your real name? Let’s take a walk.” My heart sank. I felt like all my hard work to gain the trust and respect of the youth in our community was about to go down the drain in one chance encounter. The two walked off onto the playground and had a lengthy conversation.
What I did not know was the Sargent recognized Jamal from a Summer Night Lights birthday celebration three years ago and was genuinely interested in how Jamal was doing. After this chance encounter with the Sergeant, Jamal is now signed up with the Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps where he is participating in their Youth Build program that is giving him on the job training and earning him a place to live. They helped him get his Social Security card and Driver’s License and they are taking steps to help him get the final credits he needs to earn his high school diploma.
I love my job and my role in our community. I am more than happy to continue with a borrowed truck and donated scrap bicycles, but we have proof of concept and have built a great case for support. If you would like to donate to this program or volunteer, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.