By NICOLE GUGINO
OBSERVER Assistant News Editor
Sometimes working together works out for everyone. This is the case for the partnership between Spoke Folk and Aspire of Western New York, which recently cut the ribbon on the building housing the collaboration between the two agencies.
Aspire and Spoke Folk cut the ribbon on its new joint facility recently. Pictured from left is Dunkirk Chamber of Commerce Vice President Ellen Luczkowiak, Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce, Crino’s Owner Steve Colicchia, Aspire of Western New York’s Executive Director Tom Sy, Nick Mages, Spoke Folk Director Richard Goodman and Aspire individual Heather.
The former Crino's gymnastic and dance studio has been transformed to accommodate bikes and art - and recently housed a huge turnout from the community for the grand opening.
"This opening represents a long journey. It is an example of what happens when partners get together. It is the future," Spoke Folk Program Director Richard Goodman said.
The bike shop and art studio have been in operation for several weeks now, enabling Aspire's individuals to learn something new.
"With bikes and art it is neat how there is no such thing as a disability - someone who can't see can create (a work of art) and we can teach people who can't walk to work on bikes. They are a unique group of folks who just want to grow and learn," Goodman added.
"I think it's a great celebration of this really neat partnership. Sometimes I think it's difficult for people to envision it. You talk about art, computers and bikes and people with disabilities but you don't really know until you see it," Aspire of WNY's Executive Director Thomas Sy said.
Both Goodman and Sy pointed to one of Aspire's individuals, Nick Mages, as one of the collaboration's stars thus far.
"You see his passion and learning new skills. It's pretty neat," Sy said.
Mages started learning how to fix bikes and once he assembles his first bike, he gets to keep it. He will also help with Spoke Folk's Meals on Two Wheels program.
"I love it and I love learning how to put bikes together," he said.
Sy explained Aspire has been looking for a way to provide day services in Northern Chautauqua County for some time.
"At Aspire, we really for the last couple of years have tried to bring day services to Northern Chautauqua County, to fill the gap throughout Chautauqua County. We have a program in Lakewood but we really have seen for a number of years a need. And there really has been a change in the field from fixed-site dayhabs to community collaboratives like this. So, to be able to partner with an agency like Spoke Folk that is so well known in the community, it was a perfect way to kickstart it," he said.
He added that he believes this is just the beginning of what Aspire and Spoke Folk can do together.
"I think we have just begun to scratch the surface of what we can do with the collaboration. We have at least three or four people with disabilities coming over to the bike side on a regular basis to be able to learn how to put bikes together and repair them and so on. And the art program has been great, now they have even been able to find a way to incorporate bikes into the artwork," Sy added.
Goodman said this has been an "inspiring experience" which has taught him and others about the value of "knowledge, patience and effort."
Sy and Goodman thanked all the people who worked hard to make the collaboration work including Aspire personnel, Spoke Folk volunteers, SUNY Fredonia, the City of Dunkirk and Crino's owner Steve Colicchia.
Aspire of WNY is a comprehensive provider of programs and services for adults and children with developmental disabilities. Aspire envisions full participation of individuals with disabilities so that they may live their lives to the fullest in keeping with their informed choices. The agency employs approximately 3,200 people in locations throughout Western New York. For more info visit www.aspirewny.org.
The Spoke Folk Community Bicycle Program was launched in 2007 in Dunkirk. Since that time the Spoke Folk project has met or exceeded many of its objectives, it continues to pioneer such new initiatives as "Meals on Two Wheels" and the "Every Kid Deserves a Bike Program." For more information on Spoke Folk visit www.spokefolk.net.
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