Community Service Is Good Business
The Bike Men of Flagler County started in 2014, helping one charity, Christmas Come True, build bicycles for their December event. Since then, Bike Men have worked with them every year, preparing 250-275 bikes for Christmas.
In June of 2017, the Bike Men started repairing donated used bikes for The Sheltering Tree, aka Flagler County Family Assistance Center – establishing the portable repair shop operation. Word quickly spread to other charity and service organizations in and around Flagler County; a full list is on their website.
This caused the Bike Men to need a base of operation, so they established the bike shop in donated space dedicated to The Sheltering Tree. They continue there today at 2323 N. State St. (US 1), Unit 79 in Bunnell. The shop has grown over the years, and they are eternally grateful to those who supported the mission. Without the donated space, the Bike Men would not have been able to expand to where they are today, repairing and rebuilding almost 2,200 bicycles a year. In addition to the main shop, there’s also a 200-square-foot storage unit to hold donated bikes until they have room at the shop for them.
Donated bicycles can be dropped off at the shop, or they can arrange pickup for those who cannot transport the donation or for large quantity donations. The bulk of the donations is from the good people of Flagler County, donating one to four bikes at a time.
Each bike that comes into the shop is “Red Tagged,” which indicates to the volunteers that it needs to be inspected, repaired and test ridden. If a bike is determined to have damage or excessive rust, it is not returned to service but is scraped for all usable parts. The remaining steel and aluminum metals are recycled, and the money goes back into the shop to buy new parts and supplies. Repaired bikes are tagged with a work description and date; they are now ready for distribution via one of the many partners.
The Bike Men hope to expand their services by establishing a bicycle co-op type operation and teaching bike mechanics to others in Flagler County.
Since 2020, Fostering Connections has provided a Career Readiness Academy program that provides foundational job skills training for teens aged 14-18 who have been impacted by foster care or trauma. Career Readiness Academy has grown to serve more than 20 young people per year in five counties throughout Northeast Florida, from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach. Students are referred to the Career Readiness Academy through Community Based Care (CBC) agencies, schools and families. Fostering Connections serves young people currently in foster care, youth who have been adopted and youth receiving nonjudicial case management services.
The purpose of the Career Readiness Academy program is to help teens identify careers that match their interests and talents, build a toolbox of resources to use when applying for jobs, learn communication and job interview skills and prepare to become valuable team members in both the school and workplace settings.
Fostering Connections has built its own program curriculum that is activity-based and trauma-informed. Workshops are led by Fostering Connections team members alongside industry experts.
Upon graduation from Career Readiness Academy, students have the opportunity to participate in job shadowing and internships. Each student receives a stipend for participating in job shadowing and internships.
The program has received consistently positive feedback from students and caregivers, “Each of my four girls expressed how wonderful the program was and how much they learned.”
“Fostering Connections has made a huge difference in my ability to help our caregivers through such challenging times,” a Guardian Child Advocate Manager shared.
For more information about registering students, volunteering, or donating to support the Fostering Connections Career Readiness Academy program, please visit https://www.fosteringconnectionsfl.org/career-readiness-academy.