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“A hub for community”: Beloved bicycle nonprofit gets new building

Communicycle’s new facility in downtown Monaca will boast more space, a central location for fixing bikes and deepening connections.


MONACA, Pa. — For Communicycle, the need for a new, centralized location was clear.


Dozens of Communicycle’s bicycle satellite locations exist across Beaver, Butler, Lawrence and Allegheny counties, as well as into neighboring Ohio. With such a far reach, Communicycle was in need of a central building for its partners to stock-up on bikes, parts and tools.


While the nonprofit is best known for repairing bikes and giving them back to the community — most visibly, kids — Communicyle does a lot more than that.


Bikes are a vehicle for making connections, according to Lee Montanari, executive director of Communicycle. Community building through real relationships is what Montanari is all about.


“The bike has always been the reason we get together,” Montanari said. “It’s about what happens through it.”


Communicycle hosts pop-up events at churches, community centers, schools and businesses throughout the region where people can swing by and grab a bike or help fix some for passersby.


Satellite locations continue Communicycle’s mission even when Montanari isn’t there.


“I like that there’s stuff happening — there’s connections being made — that I’ll never know about,” he said.


And making a main Communicycle hub in Monaca just made sense.


“It’s the most central place for people,” he said. “There’s Route 51 in one direction and Route 18 in another. Nobody said Monaca was too far, so we decided to stick with Monaca for this new building. We’re investing in this location so that all of these other satellites can also take place.”


“Think of this location as the bin where all the parts are housed,” Montanari added.

Communicycle’s new building will be in the old Family Dollar slightly set back from Pennsylvania Avenue.


“It’s visible enough but set back so there’s more parking,” Montanari said.


The borough’s new municipal building is supposed to be built just behind the new Communicycle building, which Montanari hopes will draw in more people.


“There will be lots of people coming in and out of that building, so we want to draw more people in,” he said.


He envisions the new space — which is nearly double the size of their current Monaca location on the other end of Pennsylvania Ave. — to be a gathering place.


Many businesses and corporations utilize Communicycle’s bike tinkering as a unique team building exercise for their employees. Church groups help fix bikes to give back to the community. Organizations and individuals from across the region visit Communicycle, and Montanari sees it as an opportunity to grow deeper connections not only with regional folks, but with Monaca business owners, too.


“People could have meetings here for team building and then we’d recommend ten Monaca businesses to support,” he said.


Breweries, coffee shops, lunch and dinner spots, record and music stores, antique shopping and more line the streets of Pennsylvania Ave. Montanari hopes his new building will help drive more people into the borough. Plus, the central location for satellites is a major benefit.


It all comes back to making connections, Montanari said. Communicycle does that in unexpected ways — like fostering team building and then supporting local businesses. As well as encouraging unique volunteer opportunities for retirees, church groups, as

well as those in active recovery at Gateway Rehab and folks with developmental and learning differences enrolled in programming at Beaver County Rehabilitation Center, or BCRC.


“None of these people knew each other before they started coming to work on bikes,” Montanari said. But now, friendships have blossomed.


Anyone can fix a bike, Montanari said. Learning to fix a bike can be therapeutic and cathartic for people. For others, it can teach them a trade. And for even more, it gives them pride in knowing they created something special for someone who really needs it.


“Someone, in just an hour or two, can make a bigger difference than they ever thought,” Montanari said. “They can make a difference in these small things.”


The new building will continue to equip volunteers and provide a roomier space for community building. It will also continue to foster the kind of unique community that Montanari loves to see — people of all stripes coming together to learn, create, and give back.


Communicycle could use assistance in continuing their mission. With a new, bigger building comes a greater financial need.


“What we need is people who are willing to invest in what we do,” Montanari said.

Bike and part donations are valuable, and volunteers are always needed at events and in-shop work days. Financially, it will cost roughly $5,000 a month to keep the new building running.


Financial assistance from the community will “allow our grant money to focus on programming” as opposed to keeping the lights on, Montanari said.


Visit http://communicycle.org to give financially, volunteer, or donate bikes and parts.


“We always meet the needs of the people — that’s the price of admission,” Montanari said. But what happens afterwards, that relationship building, is really the mission of Communicycle.

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