Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Annie Yarbrough, Learn-To-Ride instructor
Sometimes the simplest conversations can lead to great things. Just ask St. Charles resident Annie Yarbrough, who has been volunteering with St. Louis BWorks for about six years now – ever since she happened to stop by the organization’s booth at a regional bike event.
When Annie inquired about the price of some schnazzy bicycle-chain keychains BWorks had on display at the expo that day, those working the booth explained that the items were being given in exchange for a donation to BWorks.
“By the time they told me what St. Louis BWorks does, I not only wanted to donate money, I knew I absolutely needed to be involved,” Annie recalls.
Her interest in BWorks can be traced back indirectly to her late father, Tom Yarbrough, who was an avid cyclist and beloved figure within the regional cycling community. Growing up, Annie watched him organize countless weekend bike rides throughout Missouri and Illinois that brought joy to many people, including her.
“Helping him put on these bike rides gave me a real appreciation for how his passion for cycling was enriching the lives of others,” Annie says. “People were getting out and enjoying nature, pushing themselves to keep the pace and finish the longer route, supporting local businesses and building relationships. He found a way to share his favorite thing with the world, and it didn’t go unappreciated.”
After he passed away, Annie spent a long time wondering how she could find that for herself. And then she discovered BWorks.
“There’s no other organization in St. Louis that does what we do,” she says. “It’s more than just giving kids bikes and computers – we are empowering them with knowledge and independence. While working on new skills, they are also learning how to work as a team, communicate, live healthy lives, set goals and push themselves.”
A couple years into her service with BWorks as a dedicated Earn-A-Bike volunteer, Annie found a particular niche that continues to put her skills and passions to great use. Known as Learn-To-Ride, the program fills a key gap for the organization by providing an option for children of all ages who have yet to learn to ride a bike for one reason or another.
Time and again, students in Annie’s Learn-To-Ride classes overcome challenges and fears and accomplish something that previously seemed impossible.
“Because of the nature of the LTR program, we end up working with students from a wide variety of backgrounds and skill levels,” Annie notes. “While this can sound intimidating to volunteers, it makes teaching them all the more rewarding. So many of these kids have gone their whole lives accepting that they won’t be able to do the same things as other kids. Often they accept this defeat before even trying, or let fear hold them back. I can’t really put into words how great it feels to help these kids prove to themselves that they can actually do it.”
She finds herself giving a lot of pep talks about falling down but getting back up and trying again as she watches BWorks students gain skills and confidence that will serve them for many years to come.
“The more I say it, the more those thoughts feel relevant to my own life,” she says. “With each group of students, I learn more about how to reach them. and by teaching this class, these kids have taught me how to be patient, positive and thoughtful.”
When she’s not volunteering at BWorks encouraging area young people and working to help other community members get involved as well, Annie stays busy as an employee of Enterprise Bank & Trust in Clayton and as a bartender at Fallon’s Irish Pub. She also loves mountain biking at Castlewood and Creve Coeur Park, window shopping and visiting new breweries. And on top of that, she recently became an aunt.
“I was recently blessed with a bouncing baby niece, Cesiley,” she says, “and I already can’t wait to teach her how to ride.”
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St. Louis BWorks Adopts Revised Mission and Vision To Carry Us Into the Future
Drafted by the BWorks board of directors with guidance from Social Venture Partners thanks to a board development grant, the revised and newly approved mission is as follows:
St. Louis BWorks inspires youth to pursue their dreams, care for the world around them, and explore new possibilities through experiential learning.
Five core values accompany the mission statement and help guide the organization’s approach to its programs and people, its reach across the St. Louis region and its focus on the next generation:
- Community: Bringing together diverse people from across the metro area, BWorks fosters empathy, friendship and personal investment in one another’s welfare;
- Sustainability: Concern for the future of the planet and all its inhabitants impacts the organization’s curricular emphases as well as its daily operations;
- Literacy: Recognizing the power that knowledge brings, BWorks focuses on helping children and teens develop skills that will benefit them throughout their lives;
- Service: An infectious appreciation for volunteers fills the organization and strengthens both BWorks itself and the entire St. Louis region as people of all ages find ways to help; and
- Enjoyment: Frequently associated with fun, excitement and even a sense of magic, BWorks seeks to delight and enrich the lives of young people and everyone involved in the organization.