Fleet Street: A Vocational Connection to the Community

Vocational is one of the five Rotary Avenue of Services, in which Rotarians assist people with learning or refreshing career skills. In 2009, Rotarian Steve Musnicky developed Fleet Street, the multiple award-winning bike project, with children in mind.  Pacific Lodge Youth Services in Woodland Hills is a residential facility for 51 boys aged 13 to 18, all of whom are in the juvenile justice system. In 2012, Pacific Lodge and Fleet Street established a vocational training program in bicycle maintenance and repair. Using a volunteer team of instructors and supervisors; community grants and donations; Woodland Hills Rotary funds; and District matching funds in cooperation with the Malibu, Downtown and Van Nuys Rotary Clubs, Fleet Street buys new bicycles and parts, but also accepts hundreds of used bicycles, which the boys from the Pacific Lodge repair.
The restored bicycles are then donated to women’s shelters, veteran organizations, college students, homeless shelters, foster care agencies, the Make a Wish Foundation, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, and other organizations and individuals who need assistance getting to work, school or running errands. Dozens of bikes also are given to low-income families with children through the Coalition on Gangs, which targets areas historically impacted by gang violence.
In addition, in cooperation with the Los Angles Police Department, Kids Are First, and the Los Angeles office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development, Fleet Street and the teens from Pacific Lodge conduct about two dozen free community bike repair events (parts and labor) each year where as many as 45 bikes were repaired each time.
Finally, Fleet Street involves the residents of Pacific Lodge in many bicycle related community events including Bike Week at Union Station sponsored by METRO, Bike In Movie Night, the Amgen Ride of California where Fleet Street provided bike valet services for over 300 bikes, and CicLAvia where over 250 bikes were serviced or repaired by Fleet Street volunteers for these one-day community events.  
Fleet Street has partnered with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Summer Nights Lite Program. Recently, I joined Fleet Street at Jim Gilliam Park to assist in an evening of bike repair. I manned the check-in table. Although the event started slowly as word spread throughout the apartments surrounding the park, there was a line of people, some with decrepit looking bicycles. As the evening wore on each one was repaired and returned in working condition to the delight of the recipients. Their faces lit up like fireworks on the Fourth of July.
However, the essence of Fleet Street is not bikes. With very strong volunteer and financial support from the Rotary Clubs and the District, Fleet Street instills a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility in troubled teenagers; develops time management, teamwork and problem solving skills; fosters respect for the environment; emphasizes the importance of a healthy lifestyle; and allows the boys the opportunity to actively participate in community service, which fosters a sense of social responsibility and demonstrates the importance and true meaning of Service Above Self.
Through Fleet Street, Rotary has been a bridge to the community providing necessary services as well as vocational training to hundreds of deserving people.