By Laura Smith
Megan Packard isn’t foreign to feeling the pull of her heartstrings almost daily at her job as program director at Turnaround Bikes in Greeley.
“I get to watch youth feel joy in giving to other people,” she said. “It’s the best thing.”
Turnaround Bikes, a chapter of Youth for Christ National, receives used bicycle donations and hosts biweekly repair and maintenance workshops for youth ages 11-19. Youth are taught how to refurbish bicycles, most of which are not their own. The bikes are donated to families, individuals or children in Weld County who are in need of transportation.
Last year they gave away 169 bikes to those in need.
Packard’s main job at Turnaround is working with Weld County, Greeley-Evans School District 6, case workers, and parole officers to make sure those who need bikes are getting them.
“One of the greatest things in the past years is that we haven’t had any repeat people who need bikes,” she said. “The bikes we donated are actually being used, and typically as a main form of transportation.”
While most of the repairs the youth do are on bikes that will be donated, Turnaround does allow youth who don’t have a bike of their own to put in enough hours to earn a bike of their own.
“One of our youth kept needing a ride to the shop to participate in workshops,” Packard said, “but eventually he worked enough hours and got a bike of his own. Now he rides it here all the time.”
Along with biweekly repair nights, Turnaround also holds beginner bike camps, rules of the road education, mountain bike trips and transportation to youth races in Fort Collins held by the Ciclismo Youth Foundation.
“We provide a jersey to the youth as well for the races,” Packard said. “Some of them have never been on a ‘team’ before and it’s a great way to get them involved in a fun setting.”
Turnaround also holds several fundraising events throughout the year, including an annual Christmas Bicycle donation.
“That (Christmas Bicycle donation) is one of the kids’ favorites because they get to put some brand new bikes together,” Packard said. “It’s fun to see how excited they get.”
Typically, 20-30 bikes are given away to youth in Weld County who need a bicycle during that event.
While Turnaround has seen a lot of growth since they began eight years ago, Packard is hoping to shift to an even higher gear in the coming years.
“I’d love to see more youth coming here and getting involved,” she said. “I want them to know that learning how to work on bikes isn’t intimidating and that we offer a safe place to learn how.”
Thanks to educated adult leaders and shop coordinator Jessy Nelson, youth are able to learn mechanic skills in a comfortable atmosphere, surrounded by one of the best things ever: the bike. Turnaround is always looking for adult volunteers to help at the shop or with other events.