by John Christian Williams
After school on Fridays, a Darion Pounds and his friends flock to a warehouse just north of LSU.
Their mission, “to fix bikes,” says Pounds.
A second grade student at University Terrace, Pounds has been coming to the Front Yard Bikeshop for a year now and is fixing his third bike.
But for founders of Front Yard Bikes, Dustin and Kim LaFont, it is about much more than just fixing bikes.
“It’s to just be a safe place for kids to come and learn,” says Kim LaFont. “And to have that mentorship alongside of getting a bicycle after they work on it.”
Dustin LaFont began Front Yard Bikes three years ago when a neighborhood child was riding his bike down the street with just a rim and no tire or tube.
“He helped him fix his wheel so he would actually have a riding tire on it,” says Kim. “Rejay went back to his house and told his twin sister and his brother and his cousin and then more kids from the neighborhood kept coming over to Mr. Dustin’s front yard.”
After the kids fix a bike, it is theirs to keep and when they want to trade up for a better model they have to fix an old one.
“We try to make it a rule that each kid has to keep their bike for at least a month and it has to run and it has to work, before they can get a new one,” Kim FaFont says.
Pounds says the current bike is his favorite, “because it is a tread bike and it is black.”
Kim and Dustin LaFont would like for the shop to be a connection between LSU and the surrounding neighborhoods. They depend on volunteers like Rachel Gentry, an English major at LSU.
“It is crazy because when I was six and seven years old, I didn’t know how to take apart a bike nor put together a bike,” says Gentry. “It is amazing to see young kids so passionate about bikes.”
Funds for the Front Yard Bikeshop come from small private donations in the form of money, food, water and old bike parts.
You know any financial donations, we always put right into our parts or into our rent and we, right now, are working to get electricity and water so we can be more accessible during the hot months,” says Kim LaFont.
This last summer, instead of spending all day fixing bikes, the students would go on rides down the levee and through downtown.
“We’ve gotten a lot of consistent high school and college aged kids to lead the younger ones,” says Kim. “The parents are also happy with the bike shop because it is keeping the youth busy after school.”
Kim and Dustin LaFont hope that one day some of their students will become bicycle or car mechanics and use the skills they learned from Front Yard Bikes.
To view a tour of the Front Yard Bikes Shop on West Roosevelt, click here.