Twice a week, dozens of kids ages 13 to 19 descend on the Sonoma Valley Teen Center to help out with Operation Bicycle. Sometimes they ride, usually they putter around, hang out in the bike basement and rebuild donated road bikes and mountain bikes that will later be sold to the public. Operation Bicycle is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m., under the direction of coordinator Adrian Palenchar.
In 2013, more than 40 students participated in Operation Bicycle’s Earn-A-Bike Program, earning 44 bikes by volunteering their time helping with the program. Teens earn credits by helping fix bikes that have been donated, then can spend those credits at the shop to “buy” their own bikes or parts.
“This introduces them to the world of cycling, a new set of hands-on skills and satisfaction from a job well done,” Palenchar said.
He believes in “bicycles as vehicles of change. They provide mobility to those who don’t drive. They’re a cheaper alternative for those who can’t afford cars. They build active bodies and minds. They are good for the environment and more.”
Operation Bicycle also provides helmets, lights and locks at zero- to low-cost to members.