Dig Baton Rouge

Beyond the Front Yard

By Claire Salinas

Front Yard Bikes has been quietly building itself up for the past five years.

Owner and operator Dustin LaFont, his wife, and his team of kids have built all the structures necessary for operating out of their four-wall warehouse, including bike racks and a back yard fence.

But LaFont has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to meet the need for a more permanent building, which has been steadily increasing over the past few years.

While LaFont does have a giving option on his website, he’s never directly asked the public for money before now.

“We want to offer welding and woodshop. We have a lot of kids who do mechanics and know business skills. We’re going to cut up our recycled bikes we can’t use, and weld with them,” LaFont said. “We’d also like to get in touch with people who can put engines on bikes. On top of that, we’ll have a new place to put another garden.”

While LaFont is keen on teaching real world skills to young people, he is also committed to making the most of the resources he has.

“Pretty much anything we find is repurposed and we make it usable. We took an old fence an apartment complex threw out and built a fence around our carport area. Anything and everything we get we use it for the facility, from old driftwood to old lumber we use, I can’t think of anything we throw away.”

LaFont uses methods that aim to instill pride in the kids for their work.

“Our kids have a big reason to feel pride because they’ve built the majority of it with their own hands. Even though we can get other people to do it we try to put our kids hands in everything so they take ownership of the program.”

LaFont is hoping to launch an internship program for Front Yard Bikes in the near future that will allow the older kids to gain a small source of income for their hard work.

“When you work at a professional level at the shop, we want to give a reward to those kids. Occasionally we get so many jobs, and I’ll be overwhelmed with all I need to do, so I’ll get the kids who are older who have become proficient with their mechanics to take some of those jobs. … I’d like to start an internship program where the kids will be here wearing shirts and serving customers. We want to supply a small level of income when they work hard.”

One of LaFont’s biggest reasons for raising money for a more permanent building is because he wants to give a sense of security to the kids in the program.

“Lots of community centers get kicked out of their buildings, but we can’t have that happen, because we have to keep up the relationships with our kids, for the program to continue,” LaFont said.

LaFont wants to make sure the spotlight is pointed in the proper direction in terms of who is really running the program.

“Our kids make the program. Me and the building by myself is petty boring. As much credit as people try to give me, I’m not the program, my kids are. They are hard workers capable of great things. I say, ‘God created you to be a wonderful bright shining light, and we need you.’ We’re not looking to help underprivileged kids. We believe they’re talented, and we’re investing in them because we think they’re going to make our future better.”

The goal of the Front Yard Bike Kickstarter campaign is to raise $20,000 as a down payment for the building they intend to purchase.

Donations can be made at indiegogo.com/projects/front-yard-bike-shop/x/10516131 until May 23.

For those who cannot give monetary donations Front Yard Bikes is always accepting to take volunteers and donations of old bikes.

For further questions, contact Front Yard Bikes at frontyardbikes@gmail.com.

 

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