There is wisdom in those words, and the same truth in advertising is on display at the Learn & Earn bicycle shop in Pleasant Hill.
There are no handouts inside the second-floor room at Campus Clubs, only hand tools and handlebars.
Want that green bike in the corner? Here is a wrench. Take it apart and put it back together. Then disassemble it again — right down to the brake cables and crank bearings. Now, do it again.
Ten hours of sweat-and-oil equity is your ticket to ride.
Nathan Watson started the project last July as a youth training and mentoring program. In the past eight months, he has graduated more than a dozen youngsters.
Studies have shown people take pride in ownership when they roll up their sleeves and work for something. That’s the premise behind organizations like Habitat for Humanity. You don’t just give someone a house. You invite them to be part of the team that builds it. That way, they have an investment in it, and with that comes a greater appreciation.
In recent years, Pleasant Hill has become a model of creating partnerships and producing results. A community campaign known “Pleasantville” (the union of Pleasant Hill and Vineville) is being spearheaded by local churches, nonprofit agencies and volunteers.
They are armed with books, tools, shovels and paint brushes. They are helping transform the historic neighborhood that gave us both Little Richard, the father of rock ‘n’ roll, and Sgt. Rodney Davis, Macon’s only Medal of Honor recipient.
On any given day, you will find volunteer tutors at L.H. Williams Elementary, reading to students, helping with classwork and offering art lessons. A community garden has been started. A Culver Street Commons “Field of Hope” is busy planning activities from golf to rugby to badminton. A backpack ministry is providing food for schoolchildren every Friday to keep them nourished over the weekend. Groups are building and rebuilding houses, and a labor force is being recruited from the neighborhood to help construct and relocate homes affected by the future interstate widening project nearby.
This isn’t just talking the talk. This is walking the walk.
And, for Watson, riding the ride.
Although he has been involved in many of these efforts, he began thinking of ways he could fill a need by tapping into his passion for rebuilding old cars.
He has always had a mechanical mind for moving parts. When he was 8 year old, he fixed his mother’s expensive Electrolux vacuum cleaner.
“I’ve always worked on old cars as a hobby — ‘60s and ‘70s muscle cars — and I had thought about doing an outreach where I could have a shop with a lift and guys could come by with their cars,’’ he said. “There are a lot of people riding around with loud mufflers because they can’t afford to do anything about it.’’
He later decided the idea would be too cost prohibitive. There also would be liability issues.
He shifted gears to bicycles after learning about the work of Dan Cathy, the son of the late Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A.
Dan Cathy was recognized in 2015 for his outreach programs in southwest Atlanta. Among them was a bicycle ministry known as “Bearings Bike Shop’’ in the Adair Park area. The nonprofit program takes donated bicycles and teaches urban youth a skill set and work ethic, building both bikes and self-confidence.
Over the past two years, the young people in the Bearings program have worked to earn more than 400 bikes. The program uses community service opportunities as “currency” for spare parts and accessories. It has resulted in more than 900 bags of trash being collected from surrounding streets.
Watson visited Bearings and came away inspired to put the pedal to the metal. He even borrowed the first step of the Bearings guidelines — “Learn & Earn” — as the name for his youth training and mentoring program in Macon.
He originally wanted to locate the shop in a vacant two-story building that once served as a police precinct in Pleasant Hill and overlooks the L.H. Williams playground. But he eventually steered up the street to the established programs at Campus Clubs, a nonprofit that works with at-risk children and their families by providing life skills training, spiritual enrichment and educational resources.
Campus Clubs was searching for more program offerings for older kids. The bike shop was a perfect way to both keep them off the streets and put them on the streets with a means of transportation. An upstairs room was provided for the workshop. Watson also had storage space donated at a downtown warehouse.
Learn & Earn began with a seven-week program last summer. Watson went twice a week during lunch. Now, the students attend the one-hour workshops at 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
There are no cutting corners or rounding curbs. To get a bicycle, children must complete the checklist and put in their 10 hours.
Are the pedals tight? Does the kickstand work? Has the chain been lubricated? Are the handlebars straight?
Graduates also ride away with a helmet and bike lock.
Watson need volunteers and bike donations. He can be reached at 478-319-1978 or Nathan@lebikeshop.com
Last fall, a fourth-grader came to him and began working to earn a small bike. When Watson showed him a selection of larger bikes, the boy said it wasn’t for him. He wanted to earn it for his 5-year-old brother for Christmas.
He and another youngster had to hustle to get their work completed and fulfill their time requirement by December. Watson took a photograph of them standing proudly by their bikes in the hallway.
The hope is there will be many more Christmases along the way.
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism and creative writing at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears on Sundays in The Telegraph.