Sarah Hafen never saw herself in a job like she’s in. Hired in January, Hafen is the first Latinx Program Coordinator at the Fort Collins Bike Co-op (FCBC). While she’s new to the position, this program has had the wheels turning for quite some time.
“I was nervous going into this role,” she said. “I’ve never done anything like this before but it’s close to my passion and goals for the future. I’m loving it.”
Thanks to grant funding from Kaiser Permanente, and in partnership with Bike Fort Collins Active Living Program, the FCBC was able to expand the outreach by hiring a dedicated Latinx Coordinator and to help carry out the ultimate mission behind the program: to build community through bicycling.
“Giving residents a place where they can go to learn more about bicycles and to obtain lower cost parts for repairs to their bicycles makes sense,” Lauren Nagle, FCBC Board Member, said. “We are actively working to become completely bilingual, with staff on hand that is Spanish speakers, with all of our educational materials and signage being in both English and Spanish. The program aims to meet people where they are, both literally and figuratively.”
Hafen, a Colorado native, lived in Chile for three years post-college, where she taught English and worked as a sommelier and Bilingual Bicycle Tour Guide. Once she came back to Fort Collins to receive a Master’s in Social Work at Colorado State University (starting Fall 2019) she was excited to join the FCBC to blend her second language and love of bicycles. Even though Hafen only works 12 – 15 hours a week, the hours seem to swiftly go by.
“A typical day could be translating signage, working during open and volunteer hours, meeting with other local organizations or working on grants,” Hafen said. Working on securing grants is a huge goal for her. “I’m hoping to make this program bigger and more sustainable,” she said, “While also creating opportunities for community champions.”
Recently, Hafen was awarded a mini-grant for the open house she held at the Co-op on March 23. Funding from the City of Fort Collins Neighborhood Services Program helped purchase food and drinks for the event, including 100 homemade tamales from a local woman in the community.
Hafen is also into the next round of USA Today Network’s “A Community Thrives” Challenge grant. Follow FCBC on Facebook to watch for the link for voting (open until April 12). While obtaining funding through grants is high on the list for Hafen, her other goal is to give the Latinx community a spot at the table too.
“I’m not Latino, and I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying to be a Latino,” Hafen said. “I’m not trying to make assumptions for what these community members and population needs or wants. I want to help them have a voice, not to ever take it away.” Hafen said she works hard to never assume someone coming into the Co-op wants to speak English or Spanish.
“I’m there to translate if they want that resource, but not a must,” she said. “I want the customers to pick what they feel most comfortable communicating in.” And comfortable telling their friends, familie, and neighbors that this resource is available, and open to all who may need it.
“The other night we had five or six Spanish speakers come in to work on their bikes, and I was there to make working on their bikes easier,” she said. While the word is slowly spreading that the FCBC has translated signs and has bilingual resources, Hafen knows there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“It’s a different kind of outreach, focused on certain communities so it takes a different kind of approach, and sometimes more time,” she said. Time, that she’s willing to put it. “It’s a valuable project,” she said. “I know it’ll grow once word spreads.”
To help spread the word Hafen has partnered with Bike Fort Collins and volunteer FCBC mechanics to hold free bike repairs at the Poudre Valley Mobile Home Park on the last Friday of the month in April through October from 3-6 p.m.
Interested in getting involved? Contact Hafen at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are a bilingual speaker and able to volunteer your time at the Co-op during shop hours or during work nights. To learn more about the Bike Co-op, visit fcbikecoop.org.