We're all driven by different passions. That personal drive is what keeps us moving forward every day and inspires us to work together to build better cities, closer communities, and a more sustainable world.
For John Jones, his passion for his community keeps him going. Born and raised in Watts, CA, John is the founder of East Side Riders Bike Club, a community organization focused on empowering and inspiring Watts and its residents through bikes. From serving free meals to the hungry to offering bike safety classes, John and ESR are always busy and working in diverse ways to serve the Watts community. We caught up with John on his break between serving meals to learn more about Watts, why community work is so important, and how others can get involved with ESR.
Thousand: Tell us a little about yourself and the passions that drive you.
John Jones: I am driven by my community and the hope that good is in all people. I get up everyday and say, if I can make one person smile, then I've done my job.
T: What is the East Side Riders Bike Club? Why and how did you found it? What is its mission?
JJ: East Side Riders Bike Club is a non-profit that focuses on moving the community forward via the bike. ESR was founded by my father and myself. My father wanted to do a bike club that had BBQs and hangouts in the park to show off our bikes. I had dreams to make this bike club a giving, healing organization like my mom did when we were kids to give back to so many others. Advocacy, community organizing, and plain out getting it done is extra for our org. The ESR Mission is to prevent kids from gangs and using drugs, to help those who are in need or less fortunate, and to educate all who seek to enrich the community.
T: What does community mean to you?
JJ: Community is the reason I get up every morning. I want to improve the community. I want to make people believe that the community is worth every single square mile it is in. I want the community to feel like a community with no color lines, thieves, or killings.
T: Why is community work so important to you?
JJ: Community work is important to me because I get to lead by example. I get to work hard for the community and prove that one man alone can't make a difference. If we all do not do our part, one man's work is for nothing.
T: What do you love about Watts and its community? What makes it so special?
JJ: Watts is home, Watts is where We Are Taught To Survive. If you can make it in Watts, I feel you can make it anywhere in the world. Watts is special because it is like a rare gem, a gem sitting in a cave waiting to be discovered for its potential. But once it's found, cleaned up, and polished it will shine like no other ever seen.
T: What advice do you have for others who also want to get involved in community advocacy work?
JJ: My advice is to make sure you are coming into this work with a level mind, commitment and dedication, and the willingness to put others first. Put others first and never give up on the reason you got in the advocacy business.
T: What’s next for you and ESRBC? How can we support what you and your organization have planned?
JJ: The next steps for ESR include: expansion to other communities, getting a space to store and restore bikes with kids, expand our Bicycle Education and Safety Training classes to a countywide program, and hold art classes with helmets so kids can have more of a sense of ownership with their helmets.
The Thousand community can help by getting involved in the low income communities like Watts, partnering with ESR as volunteers, and fundraising for the community with proceeds going to non-profits like ESR.
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