Lebanon County Group works to provide bicycles to those in need
Lebanon Bicycle Recycle is based on the success of Harrisburg Bicycle Recycle.
Bill Slavonik has worked on bikes for most of his life.
He was the eldest in a family of 13 siblings, and his father spent the night in the trash looking for bikes to fix.
“I was the eldest son in the family and I was working on it so the family would have bikes,” Slavonik said.
Once a week, Slavonik finds himself in the basement of St. James Lutheran Church in southern Lebanon fixing bicycles.
Slavonik is part of a new group in town called Lebanon Bicycle Recycle.
The group’s goal is to repair old bikes and donate them to people in need.
Slavonik knows what he’s doing and can quickly adjust the derailleur in no time, but he goes through everything he does very slowly, letting people gathered around him see and learn how it’s done.
“That’s basically why I’m here, it’s just to pass on the skills and try to teach the kids how to work on the bikes, how to set them up so they can be ridden safely by other people. “, did he declare.
Slavonik has been volunteering for years, fixing bikes and getting those bikes into the hands of people who need them.
“The best thing is the smiles on the faces of kids or adults for that matter, who needed bikes,” he said. “It’s nice to see your efforts rewarded, when you fill a need and you can see it, that’s reward enough in itself.”
Slavonik and the rest of the volunteer mechanics are a small group of people who hope to make a difference in Lebanon County.
The group formed after Laurie Crawford, project manager for Penn State’s REACH program, saw a need in the city. REACH is a nationwide program administered by the CDC and aims to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities.
“Not everyone in the city has reliable transportation,” Crawford said. “They have to go to their health appointments. They have to go to libraries, grocery stores for their access to food. If the missing component doesn’t have a bike, that’s something we can do.
Crawford has partnered with the Lebanon Valley Bicycle Coalition, an organization that promotes safe routes for cyclists, to try to reach even more people, especially children.
“We’re trying to get them started on the right foot,” said Ron Birch, a member of the bike coalition working with bike recycling. “Give them suitable helmets. Involve them in driving safety through the city. Then they will keep this habit in their adult life.
The organization has continued to grow but needs volunteer mechanics.
Best friends Abby Crawford and Sophia Medzoyan started coming to Lebanon Bicycle Recycle because they wanted to get more involved in their community.
The two 16-year-olds also wanted to rely less on their dads when their bikes broke.
“There are a lot of mechanics coming to help us out,” Abby said. “And we learned so much. I went from knowing nothing, to now feeling confident to fix one.
Learning how to repair bikes has sometimes been difficult.
“There are so many different ways to take a brake apart and I just can’t keep it in my head,” Medzoyan said.
But, she says, lack of experience shouldn’t stop someone from volunteering.
“I’m not a practical person,” she said. “I can’t do any of this and I’m fine. So if I can do it, anyone can do it.
Lebanon Bicycle Recycle also wants to reach Lebanon’s growing Latin American population, Crawford said.
The latest US Census data showed that 43% of the city identifies as Hispanic or Latino.
Lebanon Bicycle Recycle will offer bilingual services, which makes the program unique, Crawford said.
Over the past few years, Lebanon has become more welcoming to cyclists.
The city has set up a convenience station at the Lebanon Farmers Market. A dirt pump track was constructed at Coleman Memorial Park.
The Lebanon Valley Rail Trail runs through the city and there are plans to connect the trail to Coleman Memorial Park, Lebanon Mayor Sherry Capello said.
As Lebanon becomes more bikeable, Lebanon Valley Bicycle Recycle will be there to try to make sure everyone who needs a bike gets one.
“If you need a bike, this is a place you can come to,” Crawford said. “Then we’ll have you outfitted.” If we don’t have the right bike, we will find the right bike. And we’ll make it happen for you.