COOLBAUGH TOWNSHIP — A chat over coffee resulted in a local youth organization receiving about 30 bicycles for their program, leading to a news story on WNEP-TV, precipitating even more bike donations, causing a storage quandary,  giving rise to the Coolbaugh Township Parks and Recreation Committee working to help provide storage space for the bicycles as well as a potential venue for the organization’s “Earn a Bike” Program.

“Trips for Kids Pocono Flow” is the local chapter of an international organization promoting the benefits of youth biking. It was organized in 2011 by Youth Infusion, Inc., a Monroe County non-profit organization formed to encourage community engagement by young people.  Youth Infusion runs programs designed to provide young people with the tools they need to become active members of the community and leaders in their society.

 

Coolbaugh resident Elika Almeida co-founded Youth Infusion in 2009, and recently returned to the organization as its Executive Director.  A few weeks ago she had “an hours-long” coffee with Coolbaugh Supervisor Alma Ruiz-Smith during which Almeida talked of her return to Youth Infusion and the “Trips for Kids Program”.  Ruiz-Smith suggested that Almeida might be able to use the unwanted bicycles dropped off by residents at the upcoming township bulk collection event.  

Elika Almeida and Alma Ruiz-Smith, in Ruiz-Smith’s basement, offered as temporary storage for bikes donated to the “Trips for Kids” program. (Provided photo)

More than two dozen bikes were collected at that event. Ruiz-Smith put a call into WNEP reporter Carmella Mataloni, who covers the Pocono beat.  Mataloni’s piece resulted in calls to Almeida of donations as far away as Pittston and Jim Thorpe.  After seeing the story, Pocono Country Place contacted her and offered the twenty bikes dropped off by residents at their bulk pick-up event. 

 

With about fifty bike donations now coming in,  Almeida needed a place to store them. Ruiz-Smith offered her basement as a temporary solution and suggested that she discuss a possible permanent home with the township parks committee.  “We have an ‘Earn-a-Bike’ program that we can use these bikes for,” Almeida said. The organization conducts a series of classes in which the children learn about all of the parts of the bicycle, including how to repair a tire, remove and install the chain and other parts. By the end of the program, they are able to take apart, put together, and repair a bicycle. They then get to keep the bike they had been working on.

Youth Infusion Executive Director Elika Almeida (left), with Trips for Kids Program Director Jim Dellavalle, Dellavalle Designs LLC (center), and Deborah Erdman, Outreach/Injury Prevention Coordinator and Trauma Education Resource Nurse for Geisinger Medical Center, with Geisinger’s gift of bike helmets, water bottles, and zipper reflectors to go with those 30 discarded bikes that were donated from the Coolbaugh Township Bulk Drop-off days.

“Trip for Kids” also leads trips on bike trails throughout the county for the program members and their families. Parents interested in getting their children in any of the Youth Infusion programs can visit the website at www.youthinfusioninc.com, write to them at youthinfusion2020@gmail.com, or call (570) 994-4119. Businesses and individuals who would like to support the program can use that same contact information to find out how they can help.