CHICAGO (WLS) -- Blackstone Bicycle Works is a free, unique program that gives kids a creative outlet after school.
Tucked behind the University of Chicago, the bicycle shop offers more than just bike repairs.
"Blackstone Bikes is a non-profit organization that holistically works with bringing in bicycle donations, restoring them and also having auxillary youth services that helps student learn life skills, nutrition and also just job readiness," said Damian Lee, the shop's program manager.
Lee works with 25-35 kids a day tutoring on subjects from social studies to science.
Kids are given the chance to learn and then earn a bicycle of their own.
"They're putting on aprons, they're pairing up with the lead mechanic and other mechanics on staff. Kids are learning skills to better ready themselves to earn a bike after about 24 hours of work," Lee said.
Maalik Gardner started out in the program and now works as bike mechanic. He says Blackstone is a place that the kids call home.
"When they come to me I feel like they get a sense of stability as someone who's been here since they were like a teenager and turned over to adulthood," Gardner said.
"For the community as a whole Blackstone is giving a home for the kids and the community to have a place to be safe and just get away from drama that's outside in the world and the real harsh realities of the world and just come here learn a skill. We feed them, we teach them and it's a great thing," Gardner said.
The shop hopes to continue their work and expand to other neighborhoods.
"The goal for us is to do more outreach in Englewood, Auburn Gresham, Greater Grand Crossing, Woodlawn all of these surrounding neighborhoods that could potentially use our resources," Lee said. "We just need folks to know that we are here even though we aren't shouting it out loud, we are here and we're definitely are going to be here to help folks."
Blackstone Bikes has an upcoming art show put on by the kids and a weekly farmers market.
For more about Blackstone Bicycle Shop, visit: https://experimentalstation.org/blackstone/
Chicago bike shop also offers youth educational programs
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