Jett Frederickson beamed Friday as she watched a young boy wheel a bicycle out of the Boise Bicycle Project.
“That’s my bike,” she said.
Frederickson is a member of a small group of prisoners at the South Boise Women’s Correctional Facility that take apart bicycles donated to the BBP, refurbish them and return them so they can be given away to children who otherwise could not afford to buy a bicycle of their own.
Tiffany Sain, Jessica Howington and Tarah Gilliland accompanied Frederickson and state Corrections Officer Laura Carlson to BBP’s offices on Lusk Street to take part in a celebration after the program collected $101,904 in three months to finance a facility expansion. Another $100,000 was provided in corporate donations and foundation grants.
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“We ended up having over 800 people donate to the campaign, so this was a real grassroots effort — $10, $25, $100 at a time, said Jimmy Hallyburton, Boise Bicycle Project’s executive director. “For us, that’s really important. We want to make sure that anyone involved with our organization ... knows that their time, their money and their investments count.”
During the past two weeks alone, the group received $30,000 in donations. Included in the total was $1,085 donated from the women of the Shifting Gears program, who held a fundraising Chinese food dinner at the prison.
The BBP wanted to break ground Friday to allow enough time to have the expansion completed by early October, when it gears up for its Christmas bike giveaway.
The project will add 2,000 square feet to the existing 3,000-square-foot facility. The existing shop will be expanded back to the alley behind the building. And a second story will provide room for a classroom and office space.
“Right now, the shop is so busy down there that if we wanted to be teaching an after-school program for kids or a safety class for refugees or if the gals from the prison were going to come down and we wanted to teach a workshop, we wouldn’t be able to do it because we’re so busy,” Hallyburton said.
Members of the prison Shifting Gears program, which began in February, refurbish five bicycles a week.
Howington also helped with the Trek Jet 60 bike the boy pedaled away on. The turnaround time was quick, she said.
“We fixed it on Sunday. It came here Monday and was gone five days later,” she said. “It’s so fulfilling to have something this good happen to someone.”
“I started to get tears in my eyes watching him leave with it,” she said.
Gilliland said she changed a bike tire when she was younger, but hadn’t ever worked on a bicycle otherwise.
“It was a lot easier than I thought,” she said.
The first bike she stripped down and put back together took about four hours. Now, it takes her 90 minutes to two hours.
“It makes me feel really good to give something back to the community,” she said. “Some of those kids don’t have anything and this gives them something they can use.”
Sain, who is scheduled to be transferred to a prison in Coeur d’Alene, closer to her home, said they’re starting a similar bicycle refurbishing program there.
“I’m excited that I’ll be able to continue doing this kind of work up there,” she said.
The women from the Shifting Gears program earn a voucher that will allow them to obtain a free bicycle from the BBP when they’re released from prison. They also will have the skills to obtain a job as a bicycle mechanic and to fix their kids’ bikes or for other people they know.
Carlson said the women in the program have exceeded her expectations. Most have been enthusiastic about their participation and have grown as people.
“You should see the transformation they’ve gone through,” she said. “Instead of just doing their time, they have a purpose.”