• John Sturdy
  • Oscar Antonio Rivera Jr. in the Bikes N’ Roses shop with his Surly Cross-Check

Oscar Antonio Rivera Jr.—whom I interviewed for this year’s People Issue, published today—runs Bikes N’ Roses, a bicycle mechanic program for youth in Albany Park. Or at least he’s trying to. The program has been endangered ever since its summer funding ran out, and he’s been scrambling to try to find grants or other sources of funding. To that end, Bikes N’ Roses is hosting a fund-raiser this Saturday from 6 to 10 PM at its storefront (4749 N. Kedzie), appropriately titled Beer N’ Bikes. Revolution Brewing has donated beer that will be for sale at the event, and there will be a couple of live bands (Cebolla Municipal and Tarnation) and a photo booth. Admission is $10, and the event is 21+.

You can read more about the organization—and check out photographer John Sturdy‘s excellent portraits—in Rivera’s interview, where he discusses how the program began with a few local teenagers going to parks and fixing people’s bikes for free. What didn’t make it into the piece is Rivera’s personal commitment to Bikes N’ Roses. He’s been working about 80 hours a week since the program began in July, he told me, and this summer he got paid for 10-20 hours a week of work. And that was when the organization had funding. Now the future of Bikes N’ Roses is uncertain, and Rivera is having a tough time keeping the program going while also supporting himself. He told me:

APNC [Albany Park Neighborhood Council] is now paying me as a part-time employee. The rest of the money that we have, which is very little, would probably go directly to my salary if they actually paid me for all those hours. So I refused it, because it’s more important to me to give the youth somewhere to go.

How do I get by? I don’t. I have a huge bag of rice and lots of beans. My savings is about $45 at the moment. I’m selling one of my two bicycles—the Cross-Check—to get me covered for next month’s bills and hoping more funding finds its way to Bikes N’ Roses after that.

If you want to donate to the program but can’t make it to the event on Saturday, donations can be made through the Albany Park Neighborhood Council’s website here.