Photos provided courtesy of Michael Drabenstott
EASTON, Pa. — Greater Easton Development Partnership (GEDP) has been awarded a $1.1 million Pennsylvania grant that includes a partnership with Community Bike Works (CBW) to bring its proven youth programs to the West Ward as well as an expansion of the Easton Ambassadors’ coverage area to include a “safe routes to school” program to Paxinosa Elementary School and neighborhood bus stops. The programs will aim to improve safety and reduce crime in the West Ward and will integrate with GEDP’s West Ward Community Initiative (westwardeaston.org).
“We are excited that grants are being received for our neighborhoods,” said Easton Mayor Sal Panto. “We have more in the process for the Southside and West Ward neighborhoods and this year we will see major pedestrian improvements to the Cattell Street corridor on College Hill.”
“GEDP and its West Ward Community Initiative continues to work to improve the quality of life in the West Ward for residents of all ages, and support for youth in the neighborhood is a particular focus,” said Jared Mast, GEDP executive director. “We’re eager to further build on that focus area with this expansion of the Easton Ambassadors program and new collaboration with Community Bike Works.”
CBW Bike Club brings proven outcomes to Easton
The partnership with CBW (communitybikeworks.org) involves the development of a bike club geared toward Easton Area High School ninth graders who live in the West Ward. Youth are invited to join a month-long, 40-hour intensive bike mentoring program. Students complete the Earn a Bike program, in which they learn bike mechanics to refurbish a bike of their own. At least 40 percent of Bike Club students will continue their connection to mentors as participants in our year-round 1:1 mentoring program, Gaining Traction.
Over the course of the project Bike Club students will be hired as paid apprentices in youth programs. In the summer CBW will offer a full-day program for up to 20 Bike Club students and rising freshmen with daily activities including bike mechanics, bike rides, community engagement, STEAM and healthy living activities including the creation of an urban garden. CBW expects to see an increase in protective factors for student participants and an increase in problem solving alternatives to violence. CBW’s proven track record in a less-intensive (24-hour) program has 94 percent of participants reporting they make better decisions, and 87 percent reporting they are better at taking care of problems without fighting or violence.
“Community Bike Works was thrilled to be invited by the City of Easton and GEDP to bring our youth bike mentoring programs to Easton’s West Ward in the summer of 2021. Now, thanks to support from PCCD, we are excited to build on our success and find new ways to more deeply engage the young people of Easton,” Kim Schaffer, executive director of Community Bike Works, said. “Bikes are an excellent way to connect with teens. Through Bike Club, we have the opportunity to build deep relationships with 100 Easton teens over the next two years, helping them build skills and feel more a part of their community. We are excited to work with GEDP and our other partners on this project to build a stronger and safer Easton community.”
Providing clean and safe routes to and from schools
GEDP will also expand its Easton Ambassadors (eastonpartnership.org/easton-ambassadors/) clean and safe program to provide coverage and supervision of common walking corridors to Paxinosa Elementary, a United Way Community School, and common walking routes to bus stops for Easton Area Middle School. The funding will provide an additional 80 hours per week of staffing to be utilized to surround school commute hours and summer program hours over the 29-month grant period.
“This grant will help provide staffing for the walking routes around Paxinosa,” said school Principal Elise Jones. “Research shows that walking to school can be great for kids’ physical and emotional health. I am looking forward to the collaborative partnership that this grant will foster for our community.”
A commonwealth-wide initiative
The funding is part of $88.6 million in Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) grants announced on January 11 by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) to 122 projects throughout the state to implement local and regional strategies to reduce violence in Pennsylvania.
VIP grants support a wide range of program types and models focused on reducing community violence, including street outreach and violence interruption programs utilizing credible messengers; Safe Corridors/Safe Passages programs, which prevent incidents to/from school and other community centers; providing referrals to partner agencies focused on meeting basic needs of participants, including education, employment, health, and other services; comprehensive pre-release and reentry programs for returning citizens; trauma-informed approaches to support victims and survivors of gun violence; and youth activities and mentorship, among other approaches.
About West Ward Community Initiative and GEDP
The West Ward Community Initiative was launched in 2019 by the Greater Easton Development Partnership. It is an initiative made possible through a Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit Program (NAP) grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (PA DCED). It is a program of the Greater Easton Development Partnership (GEDP). GEDP is a volunteer-driven, nonprofit organization focused on Easton’s economic well-being, historical integrity, vibrant culture, and hospitality. GEDP is comprised of Easton Farmers’ Market, Easton Main Street Initiative, Easton Public Market, PA Bacon Fest, the Easton Ambassadors and many other programs. For more information, visit eastonpartnership.org.
Information provided to TVL by:
Drabenstott Communications Group