Exciting things are happening with the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Sparks and specifically its Kiwanis Bike Program as it is transitioning into its new digs at 5305 Mill Street. The Bike Program was a special service project created by the Kiwanis Club 20 years ago that started out in a garage, but will now have 1.5 acres on Mill Street to build a community center, bike shop, and have a practice area around the building to ride.
“We’re in the process of remodeling the building; we’re living out of containers right now,” says Kiwanis Club Member Ellen Jacobson who oversees the bike program.
Finding a permanent longstanding home for the Bike Program has been a challenge as the organization has moved three times over the last two decades due to landlords selling the buildings that the Kiwanis Club have been housed in. The Kiwanis Bike Program was most recently at Rosewood Lakes in Reno before its lease was up and it had the opportunity to move into the Mill Street location.
The Kiwanis Bike Program has high hopes for the building, but it turns out that the renovation work is overwhelming, to say the least.
“The Flood Management Authority offered us this place if we fix it up, but right now it’s a total work in progress,” Jacobson says. The Mill Street location used to house 4-H clubs and agricultural offices, but when it laid vacant for a while then vandals stole all of the copper wiring out of it.
“We had to do a total reconfiguration of the space to make it work for us,” Jacobson says.
Currently the Sparks Kiwanis Club is using Quickspace temporary buildings to store bikes, but it is hoping that they will have heating and light installed in the new building within the month.
“We’re hoping to have permission to occupy the building in two weeks or so,” she adds.
When the Sparks Kiwanis Club took on the bicycle service project, it didn’t want to just collect and repair bikes to give away; its members also wanted to teach kids how to be responsible owners of them. The Kiwanis Club currently donates anywhere from 600- 1000 bicycles per year to schools and youth programs while also hosting camps, clinics, and clubs teaching bicycle education (riding and repair).
The Kiwanis Bike Program is quite active in the community, participating in more than 30 events a year including the 39 North Pole, Run for Education, Riding on the River family festival, and its annual bike swap fundraiser. However, even though its new location is still technically in Reno, Jacobson doesn’t really see borders.
“We count Reno/Sparks as a community, not two separate entities defined by a border. We participate in Reno events, too, and many of our kids come from Reno to Sparks and vice versa to be involved with Kiwanis Bike Program. We’re all about supporting kids and their families, and most of our rides we do start in Cottonwood Park, which is closer than where we were before. We’re so glad to be where we’re close to Sparks and everything else that we do so that we don’t have to drive across town,” she says.
Although the renovation project has been challenging, Jacobson believes that the support of the community has kept the Kiwanis Bike Program looking forward.
“People have continued to support us (throughout the renovation) and we were still able to donate over bikes to the Salvation Army Angel Tree over the holidays, despite the chaos,” Jacobson says. She said that it’s taken a lot longer than they expected, largely due to local contractors being so busy with other building projects.
However, even though it’s been tough to get the work done, the construction community has made up for it through making generous donations.
“Local contractors have made $50,000 in contributions to the Kiwanis Bike Program. Without Suncrest Builders, Ellison One Architect, and Triumph Electric, we wouldn’t have been able to do this,” she says.
“We’re still open for business. Kids from the AACT (The Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology) and Big Brothers Big Sisters have been coming here. The Parks and Recreation Department allowing us to use this space in the summer have made it possible for us to do camps again, along with our thousands of volunteers.”
The Kiwanis Bike Program is currently operating out of the 5305 Mill Street location and is hoping to host a grand opening in late April. For more information about the project, visit http://www.kiwanisbikes.org/.