Reimagining Downtown in Hogansville, Georgia
In the quaint downtown of Hogansville, Georgia, the memories of a once thriving economy are visible at every turn, from the old Opera House to the Royal Theater. In this quiet corner of Troup County, south of the hustle and bustle of Newnan and the revitalized town of Senoia, Hogansville sits like a memory of an old southern town.
Recently though, the arts community has discovered the beauty of this hidden gem. Local artists have taken to Hogansville and have developed a creative enclave through the Pioneer Project revitalizing the community. The old jailhouse now features the works of local artists and craftsmen. The energy in the town is palpable and has caught on with some young pioneers. Still, there’s a void in terms of opportunities for young people to connect to anything meaningful outside of school.
In a town full of kids lacking in opportunity and meaningful recreational and vocational outlets, enter the Abraham family, Alex, Emilee and their 2 small children.
While working a full-time job, Alex saw the need to get kids in the community engaged in something positive, while also developing a useful set of life skills that would carry them forward as they grew up. The Abrahams didn’t have prior experience in starting a non-profit or knew much about bicycles or bike repairs; but an encounter with a kid who bumped into the side of their truck while riding a bike with broken brakes sparked an idea. From that vision came the Pedal Forward Community Bike Shop.
After spending a year operating at a local park dubbed “The Green Patch” 1 day a week, Pedal Forward moved into a previously abandoned old space in the heart of Main Street, expanding its operation and taking a major step forward towards fulfilling the mission of providing meaningful experiences for kids in and around Hogansville. Emilee shared, “we recognized the need that our community had for a physical safe space for the kids, a building for them to come to after school and on the weekends. But also, a place where they knew that they were seen and loved and that if something happened in their lives someone would see it and recognize that they weren’t alone.”
Pedal Forward’s vision is very clear: a local, community bike shop designed to give kids an outlet for positive growth, friendships, developing leadership skills and a sense of belonging. All the while, doing so in the context of a bike shop where kids who are willing to invest the time can earn themselves a free bike. The bikes are earned by investing time in the shop, learning basic mechanical skills, and by becoming responsible members of the community. Along the way, the kids develop strong character traits that will hopefully serve them well as they grow up.
With a similar concept to Bearings Bike Shop in Southwest Atlanta, Alex was hopeful that he could bring the same successful model to his small town. While the challenges that the kids face in Hogansville might be somewhat distinct from those of kids in the heart of Atlanta, there are enough similarities to believe that the need was the same: to provide kids with an opportunity to earn a bike through their volunteer work, and in the process, develop a meaningful connection to their community.
All of those ideals were on display at the recent Grand Opening of the new space. In the company of the Mayor, the head of the Troup County Chamber of Commerce, and with reporters from local newspapers in Lagrange and Newnan there to cover the story, Alex and Emilee cut the ribbon on their new downtown home. In attendance were not just local dignitaries and business folk, but many of the kids who were already benefiting from the Pedal Forward program. You could see how proud they were to be associated with Pedal Forward, already benefitting from the sense of belonging to a community that cared for them. Kids and families poured in, hungry for the opportunity to be part of what Pedal Forward has to offer. At the opening event, Jay (12) and Micah (12), who were among the first kids to join the program introduced themselves as ‘the most senior bike mechanics of Pedal Forward”. When asked what they want to do when they grow up, they said that their first job will be Pedal Forward.
At Bike Law, we celebrate those who are helping to make the world a better place for anyone who enjoys riding a bike. We salute our friends at Pedal Forward and are excited to see how they help empower the next generation.
How you can help Pedal Forward:
- Volunteer! – In Emilee’s words, “we need good people to surround the kids on the nights that they are here in the building”.
- Drink more coffee! – Brent Anderson from Senoia Coffee & Café developed a specialty coffee roast named Gears & Grind with the proceeds going entirely to Pedal Forward.
- Contribute financially! – Visit Pedal Forward’s website for additional information on their 2019 and 2020 budgets. https://www.pedalforwardhgvl.org