Moderated by Rick Badie
Countless residents and public servants contribute and volunteer time to make pockets of this city and region better places. Today, I write about an operation that teaches West End kids how to repair bikes while using cycling to create healthy, sustainable lifestyles. Also, an Atlanta city councilman writes about the “Year of Boulevard,” a neighborhood trust-building effort in the Old Fourth Ward that has continued to grow since its 2012 debut.
Children bicycling to better health
By Rick Badie
Some days, Holderness Street in Southwest Atlanta gets flooded with so many kids riding bikes that it reminds Shawn Deangelo Walton of a “mini Singapore.”
He’s partly to blame for the popularity of the two-wheeled activity, thanks to a civic-minded small business he started to introduce youngsters to the joy of cycling and gardening. Walton is the founder of WeCycle Atlanta, an operation that stresses WHEELS: Work Ethic, Health, Environment, Economics, Leadership and Sustainability. It does so by giving young people in the West End access to bikes, fresh produce and, of course, cycling.
WeCycle Atlanta, with hundreds of volunteers, primarily serves the low-income neighborhood of Ashview Heights where Walton, a Morehouse Man, lives. The organization hosts projects, from block parties and clean-up projects to gardening. It has given away more than 100 bicycles and organizes bike rides throughout the year. New and refurbished bikes are donated to the cause.
This summer, about 25 youths took part in a program that educated them on bike maintenance, cycling, gardening and community service. This summer also marked the first time participants worked in community gardens throughout the West End, learning about growing food and eating a proper diet.
“Garden work is hot and sweaty,” said Ebony Blanding, a volunteer who graduated with Walton from Tri-Cities High. “To have kids come up here and ask for something to do is empowering. To see it in person is moving. (WeCycle) teaches work ethics, and it brings the community together.”
For Walton, 28, WeCycle Atlanta is a full-time job, a mechanism for change.
“I’m a state-certified educator, but I am putting all of my effort into sustaining this social venture,” he said. “I believe it can be the stabilizing and sustaining praxis of communities around the world. We believe that cycling and urban agriculture can help stabilize and sustain a community, and we are working to create a foundation here in Atlanta. Our long-term goal is to apply the WeCycle WHEELS model throughout greater Atlanta.”
Walton started riding bicycles at a young age, naturally drawn to the mobility and freedom two wheels provide — never mind the creativity and ideas that can pop up while cruising. He commuted from East Atlanta to Morehouse College as a sophomore, a trip that gave the early childhood development student time to ponder how he wanted to invest in his life and community.
His vision: To open a bike repair shop in the West End that would also serve as a community center. A campaign is under way to raise money for the project; a block party/fundraiser was held Saturday at the corner of Fenwood and Holderness streets. Kids cycled, skated and played hop-scotch.
“It was a very beautiful scene,” Walton said.
Shawn Angelo Walton is founder of WeCycle Atlanta.
“Year of Boulevard” builds people – and trust
By Kwanza Hall
was during our first back-to-school block party in July 2012 that I realized the “Year of Boulevard” was going to last more than 365 days.