Thursday, September 19, 2013

St. Louis BWorks celebrates 25 years

Nonprofit’s family-friendly anniversary event set for Sept. 28 

Bicycles, books, and computers may be ordinary things at first glance, but for the kids and volunteers that work closely with them at St. Louis BWorks in Soulard, they take on a deeper significance.

For nearly a quarter century, the BWorks organization has been turning donated bikes, desktop computers, and writing and illustration supplies into much more, providing free programs that improve the lives of hundreds of local children each year. As the kids learn to fix flat tires, communicate their ideas on paper, and operate and care for a computer of their very own, they gain confidence and practical life skills—as well as tangible rewards for their efforts.

"It’s really about helping to make kids' dreams come true," says local graphic designer Anna Nowotny, who has helped lead Book Works and Bicycle Works programs since signing up as a BWorks volunteer last year. "The dreams may seem modest to some, but for many of the kids who participate in Bike Works, for instance, the bike that they earn is not only a cherished possession that they might not otherwise have access to—it’s also a symbol of and reward for self-empowerment, delayed gratification, and dedication."

Now located at 2414 Menard Street, BWorks has grown substantially since its founding in 1988, with the Byte Works and Book Works programs added in 1996 and 2011, respectively. Bicycle Works, the charter program, has also expanded over the years and includes a bike shop where refurbished bikes and parts are sold, with proceeds benefiting the BWorks programs.

On Saturday, Sept. 28, BWorks will celebrate its 25-year history with a family-friendly birthday party hosted at its unique facility from 6 to 10 p.m. Featuring a silent auction, tours, drinks, and activities for children, the event is free and open to the public. Patrick Van Der Tuin, BWorks' executive director, notes that the party, like so many of BWorks' efforts, is primarily volunteer-driven and is a special opportunity not only to raise awareness and funds but also to celebrate the dedicated people that pitch in to help the organization succeed.

One of those people is Melissa Leavy, an attorney and mother of three whose children each completed the Bicycle Works program. But their involvement with BWorks didn’t end there. Both Leavy and her oldest child, Jessica, have returned as volunteers, finding the emphasis on earning something and working together toward shared goals particularly appealing.

"My daughter gets a lot of self-confidence helping others, and I appreciate so much that she has this opportunity," Leavy says. "Natalie [another adult volunteer] has been wonderful about involving Jessica and making her feel important. She gets to work one-on-one with other students who need special attention, and it’s perfect for her."

To learn more about BWorks, see or call (314) 827-6640.

... and of course come to the party on the 28th! :-) Here's the event page on Facebook.

(Photo courtesy the parent of one of our wonderful students this summer.)