BLOOMINGTON, MN (BRAIN)—QBP has reached an agreement to fund Full Cycle, a Minneapolis-based outreach program that offers free bikes to homeless and at-risk youth as a way to engage them with vitally needed social services.
The program, which is run by Pillsbury United Communities (PUC), a charitable nonprofit, is currently available by appointment only. With the new financial support, Full Cycle will greatly expand the reach of the program, hiring a full-time bike mechanic and creating a series of beginning, intermediate and advanced bicycle mechanic courses. Working with volunteers from QBP, they will transform the operation into a modest retail business that repairs and sells used bicycles. It is slated to open in May.
Founded in 2002 by Matt Tennant, a social worker, Full Cycle uses the promise of a renovated bike to connect homeless youth ages 23 and under with food shelves, places to stay, basic medical care and other social services available through Pillsbury House, a PUC neighborhood center in South Minneapolis.
“Kids love bicycles,” Tennant said. “Their interest in bikes brings them to our door. We simply offer them the chance to earn a bike by learning how to refurbish it. For some, that's as much as they want. For others, we're able to connect them to a wide range of community resources.”
For the past two years QBP has supported Full Cycle, which operates from a converted auto shop on 35th and Chicago in South Minneapolis, with parts, tools and other basic supplies. Late in 2007, the QBP Advocacy, Community Service and Environment (ACE) committee decided to ramp up its commitment and provide a significant level of funding.
“Matt is doing a good job reaching homeless kids right now," said Gary Sjoquist, who oversees QBP advocacy efforts. “The ACE committee felt there was an opportunity to
extend the program further through a donation of manual labor and other resources. By hiring an experienced bike mechanic, Matt will be able to focus on youth
entrepreneurship, job training and connecting youth to employment opportunities.”
In the spring, QBP will host a work party at Full Cycle where volunteers and some homeless youth will outfit the space to support a retail operation. QBP will help the
business develop a network to obtain used bikes from a variety of sources.
“In this part of the city, there are few bike shops,” said Sjoquist. “We believe a small business can sell used bikes, provide tune-ups and offer basic commuting needs like tubes, tires and chains. The beauty of this approach is that we can also develop a small revenue stream to help offset costs."
Beyond learning a trade, participants will gain valuable business skills like conducting sales and customer service, running a cash register and helping with the day-to-day
management of the shop. Graduates of the program will have an opportunity for paid internships in local bike shops that could lead to employment. Some students of the program will receive a stipend from Pillsbury House during their internship.
Minneapolis bike shops interested in supporting a mechanic through internship or employment, or donating used bikes should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.