LORAIN — It’s more than just bikes.
That was the sentiment at the Lorain County Community Action Agency’s new bike shop dedication Saturday.
The building at 101 W. 10th St. in Lorain was named The Ronald Nabakowski Youth Center after the longtime county clerk of courts. The shop will hire youths and young adults ages 16 to 24 and teach them how to repair bicycles.
Jackie Boehnlein, president and CEO of the Community Action Agency, said it’s important to give Lorain County youths employment and life skills, which she said the bike shop will do.
She said the shop will take donations of bicycles, and the youths will work on them. The bike shop also is open to anyone who needs their bicycle fixed.
Some of the bikes that will be maintained and repaired at the shop will be those in the bike share initiative created by Lorain County Public Library, Lorain County Metro Parks and Lorain County Public Health.
Mike Longo, director of the Lorain County Workforce Development Agency, said the job will keep youths engaged and motivated, especially since they’ll be paid for the work they do.
“It gives kids someplace to come,” Longo said. “They have someplace to come that’s theirs. They’re off the street, they’re doing something productive. Hopefully, with the mentoring and coaching that the agency is providing them, they’re going to stay focused and continue positively through school.”
The upstairs of the bike shop will be used for mentoring programs, meetings, a food pantry and as a youth gathering spot.
Christopher Nabakowski, Ronald’s son, said his dad would have loved the bike shop because he loved Lorain and its youths.
“My dad was interested in the people,” Christopher Nabakowski said. “My dad was interested in the city and about helping young people succeed, giving them activities. His big problem was boredom. If you’re bored, you’re getting in trouble and this fills that hole.”
Ronald Nabakowski was named to the Ohio Senate in 1977 and served until 1982. He was appointed as Lorain County clerk of courts in 2000 and held the position for 14 years. Ronald Nabakowski, who also served on the Community Action Agency’s board of directors from 2005 to 2016, died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2016.
The bike shop building was built in 1902 and was a clothing cleaner’s store for 18 years. The building, which was purchased as part of a property deal when the agency moved some offices to 936 Broadway, was refurbished and repaired so it could become the bike shop.
Christopher Nabakowski said it’s proof that any building in Lorain can be transformed, and his dad was a big believer of that.
“This is the kind of thing that he would have fought for, worked on and done himself if he could,” he said, “so this means so much.”
The Community Action Agency partnered with several other local agencies, such as the Workforce Development and OhioMeansJobs, to make the bike shop a reality.
Its hours are 2 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, but the hours could change in the future, depending on the need.
Boehnlein had the idea for the bike shop three years ago as a way to teach skills skills and provide mentorship to young adults. She said learning how to work on a bike could lead them to learning how to fix wheelchairs or cars.
“Having even one adult in your life that will guide you in a meaningful way truly makes a difference,” she said. “I do think that everything that goes around the pride of coming in and learning how to maintain that bike and having ownership in that bike is transforming.”