While I'm on my Minneapolis Mom sabbatical, I'm looking for places and practices and great ideas that could - and SHOULD - be implemented everywhere (always with an eye on if it would be cool in Venice, of course). Well, when I visited Frostbeard Studio (the awesome store of gifts for book nerds), I saw a bike shop across the street called Full Cycle, and a smaller sign that said "Bikes that give back". O.K. .... needed to know more about that, so in I went.
It turns out that Full Cycle is EXACTLY the kind of space that belongs in Venice. Full Cycle is a full service bike retailer and bike service station, but what makes them unique is that they have a PAID internship program for homeless youth in the area. They teach them how to work on bikes, and then pay them so they don't have to steal them, and also can get on the road to independence and get off the streets. So, what do we have an awful lot of in Venice? Bikes. Homeless people. Bike thefts. Mmmm hmmm. Yep. This program could really work, and really help a lot of people.
Founded 10 years ago by Matt Tennant, Full Cycle set out to try to help the homeless by the paid internship program, free bike appointments (bikes can be borrowed for a six month period to provide healthy transportation and recreation), street outreach, and food access programming. All of this connects the homeless youth to the supportive staff members, who help them with community resources and support services.
Once they graduate from the internship program, they are eligible to become staff mechanics or food delivery drivers - as Full Cycle also has a garden in the back that grows produce to be bike delivered to the area's shelters and drop-in centers, as well as keep the youth full of fresh and healthy vegetables. I'm SO into it ... and really think this could be a very positive solution to a lot of what's going on in Venice too. For real.
Full Cycle is kept afloat by the United Way, corporate donations, some government money, their bike sales and repairs income, and in-kind contributions. That's great, but there's lots of ways that anyone can get involved ... You can donate or purchase a bike, or bring your bike there for maintenance, and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same (because it gives back!). You could make a tax-deductible donation. You can volunteer at their events, or host your own (bike drives, rides, parties - think of the Venice Electric Bike Parade getting behind a Venice shop like this - how great!). You can get your business or workplace involved by giving a team donation. And very importantly, you can refer homeless youth to their programs. That's quite a few options to help, and all of them are pretty do-able.
Venice (and Greater Los Angeles/Skid Row) probably has the biggest homeless problem, but it's everywhere these days - even in the very cold winters in Minnesota. We MUST do something, and folks like those at Full Cycle ARE doing something about it. And so can you. You can care. You can help in so many ways. There are solutions, as Full Cycle has seen the results of their work helping to get our young people off of these mean streets. Their mission statement: To connect with and support homeless youth, our community, and our Earth through bikes, business, and relationships." What a wonderful concept - made even more wonderful by seeing it in action.
Please consider opening a shop like this, someone in Venice! And Everywhere, for that matter! And if you're in Minneapolis, please consider Full Cycle for all of your bike needs. They're really making a difference. And by supporting them, so can you. Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and I'm very thankful for places like this that embrace humanity and giving in one big group hug - that actually helps people. Thanks, Full Cycle!
3515 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Open Weds - Friday 12p-7p