In 2012, Terry Key, 41, moved to Edgehill Apartments, a public housing apartment in south Nashville, after he and his family lost everything in the Flood of 2010.
“We were trying to find some leaders in the area, because we lost everything and times were rough,” he said.
Terry said he knocked on several doors and ended up at Edgehill United Methodist Church.
“They put their arms around us,” he said. That next year, in July of 2013, Terry started the Edge Hill Bike Club, now a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization where children learn life skills and build a sense of community through the refurbishing of bicycles, and organizing community-wide bike rides.
the GIFT of BIKES
Terry came up with the idea of the Edgehill Bike Club, and put the idea in motion with help from Hands On Nashville and Oasis Center.
In December of 2013, Hands On Nashville told Terry if he could find a truck to pick up the bikes they would give him about 40 bikes to help start the bike club. Terry immediately started looking for a truck to borrow and eventually loaned one through Nashville Inner City Ministry.
“I pulled up and unloaded all the bikes with my family, and we saw so many kids come out,” he said. “This was in December, and it was cold outside but I’m watching these kids riding bikes with no shoes or shirts on. It was freezing cold outside, but they kept riding.”
Terry said at that point he realized there was a bigger issue at hand. He noticed that bikes grabbed the children’s attention and he knew then he could make a positive difference with them.
“They rode for a while then they started knocking on my door because a chain broke or they needed a new tire,” he said. “I said, well I’m going start the Edgehill Bike Club because if they are going to knock on my door to fix their bikes, I might as well start a club.”
After that, Terry did his research and learned more about the community. He incorporated the famous polar bears that have represented the neighborhood for decades in the club’s T-shirts. He and made an effort to establish solid relationships with members in the community.
“We took the first bike ride [as a club] from Edgehill to Centennial Park with about 30 kids,” he said. Terry said that Saturday a child a part of the club was struck by a car but suffer only minor injuries.
“I want to really stress that the kids need to be safe when they are riding bikes,” he said. “We’re giving away a lot of bikes, and I don’t want them to get hurt.”
Terry said he’s taking steps to keep these kids safe by calling Public Works and having them put up more signs to tell drivers to slow down and be on the watch for children playing.
After the first bike ride, he took to social media, asking his friends on Facebook if they had any used bikes, broken or not. He said he was willing to fix them and give them to the children in his community.
Over the last three years, Edgehill Bike Club was given away more than 500 bikes to children all around Nashville.
BEYOND a BIKE CLUB
Terry has his eyes fixed on expanding the bike club to neighborhoods and smaller communities all around Nashville.
“We just branched out to the Sudekum, another rough neighborhood,” he said.
Terry used an empty apartment as a classroom in Sudekum Apartments, another public housing neighborhood in south Nashville. Unfortunately, the classroom, where he was able to have speakers talk to the neighborhood children and give about 50 bikes away, was turned into a living unit.
He said he still has a small office in Sudekum Apartments but there isn’t enough room for the things he wants to do.
“These kids are running around with nothing to do and nowhere to go, and I know, no matter what people say, bikes are turning these kids around,” he said. “We took kids from Edgehill, where they see shootings and gang activity, and we took them to Sudekum where they see the same thing. But with these bikes, they are riding with each other and getting to know each other.”
Terry said if the kids from different neighborhoods get to know each other it would prevent a lot of potentially bad situations.
“We gave a boy about 12 years old a bike and took a ride to Sevier Park, about a mile a way, and he told us he had never been to this park before,” Terry said. He asked some of the children if they’ve ever been out of the neighborhood before and most of them replied that they hadn’t.
“I said, I’ve got more work to do,” he said.
Terry acquired his 501(c)(3) status to become an official nonprofit last year.
“Now, I’m crying out for help and all these little kids are crying out for help,” he said. “All I need is the space and the tools and then I can bring the professionals in to talk to the kids. We want to motivate them, keep them in school, help them [get] good grades and make sure they take care of their community.”
Terry believes parents play a big part in building the neighborhood.
“We’ve got to motivate the parents too, and get them out here to get involved to help work on the bikes,” he said. “It’s an issue, but if we put just a small effort in, I’m pretty sure we’ll get something to trickle.”
Terry said seeing all the new houses getting built in the area while some of the communities stay the same is depressing.
“I even try to color the neighborhood or something. Let’s bring some bike repair kits out here. Let’s color the neighborhood instead of opening the doors and all you see is brown all the time.”
GROWING UP WITH TERRY
Terry grew up in Dellway Apartments off of Dickerson Road in northeast Nashville.
“When I grew up, the only people we were looking up to were the pimps, hustlers and gangsters. We didn’t have any father figures, so all together the kids came together and formed our own big family,” he said. “We watched out for each other and grew up the best way we could.”
Terry said he almost starting following the wrong crowd. He said he got into a little trouble and it was then he decided if he got a second chance he would change his life around.
“From being on the streets to teaching myself how to work and survive without hustling, it was a long road,” he said. “It took me close to 20 years to turn my life around, but I took baby steps.”
Terry said his baby steps were things like deciding to want to learn everyday, learning how to fill out applications and learning how to work.
He and his wife worked at Dillard’s for nearly six years. He said after a while he was able to get a duplex and own a few cars.
“While we were on top, here comes the water to flush it all out,” he said. “They gave us the FEMA papers and when we went back to our house a week later to get all of our stuff, they took out all our stuff and changed the locks. All we could do was look through the window.”
Terry said he thought about moving the family to Atlanta to start all over, but he decided to stay live with family and stay in Nashville. Terry has a wife and two girls ages, 16 and 14 and a 13-years-old son.
In 1999, Terry opened a bicycle shop on Dickerson Rd. He said the shop didn’t do well, and it eventually closed.
“I failed at it but I learned a lot. It was over 15 years ago, but I knew then that bikes were going to be big in Nashville again, one day,” he said. Terry said he had been thinking of ideas about bicycles for so long when the their recent popularity surged again his mind was going 100 mph.
Terry admitted he’s in a transitional period of making his life better. He’s working on getting a job and getting his G.E.D. Terry said he knows he’d inspire a lot of people to get their G.E.D. if he were to get his.
FUTURE and COMMUNITY
Terry described a community as a group of people and a group of families trying to work together.
“It takes a village to raise a kid,” he said. “We’ve got to look over these kids and make sure they have a chance at life because if their parents and others don’t watch out for the kids, there’s so much temptation out there for them to get into trouble.”
Terry said what feeds his mind and helps him out is listening to motivational speakers like Les Brown and other mentors online.
He said he sees the positive influence of the motivational speakers working at home with his children and its effect in the community.
“I’ve tried to get the police station to bridge the gap with what’s going on in the news,” he said. “Bikes can bridge gaps, because the kids want to talk about them. If we can get the police bike riders to come, they will start talking and getting to know each other.”
During The Big Payback last month, Edgehill Bike Club raised almost $3,000. Terry said he wants to invest that money into a trailer so he can take the children on bike trails around the city and let them see more of Nashville.
“I want to start bike clubs all over Nashville,” he said. “We want to support people with transportation and bikes, we just need to get funded.”
Terry is looking for grant writers, donations to this great cause, and people who want to volunteer their time.
“Now, people are coming from all over just to give me bikes and pray for me,” he said. Terry said none of this would be possible if not for the support of Metro Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) who manages and owns public housing neighborhoods in the city.