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Newton bike shop owner's passion project aims to encourage more reading

Joe Urias, owner of Mojo Cycling in Newton, knows that not every kid likes to read. But he's trying his best to encourage them — with a bike giveaway in May.

NEWTON, Iowa — For being just one guy, Joe Urias has his hands in a lot of things.

"This is what I do. I work on bikes. I'm just a single entity here," Urias said. "Not only do I put all the bikes together, I have to do all the ordering. I take care of the customers. I do all the tune ups."

It's been this way for a long time. Mojo Cycling of Newton opened in 2010, when Urias decided he needed a change.

"[After] 26 years at Maytag I had to have something to do, so this is what I did," he said. "I've been here a while." 

As a man who knows who he is, Urias just keeps rolling. Many in Newton know him, too. 

"I've known Joe's family since we were kids. I know how much they mean to the city of Newton," said Dan Crook, member of the local Masonic Lodge. 

It was in Newton Urias found his love for cycling. 

"Actually, this was the only bike shop in Newton at the time," Urias said.. 

How the wheels have turned. Now, Urias owns the only bike shop in town, and he's the one the kids are running to.

"I'm developing a relationship with these kids," he said. 

And to build that relationship, Urias' meeting the kids where they are. He's using his work to encourage students to read books by partnering with the Newton Masonic Lodge. 

"What we're doing is offering 20-inch bicycles for second graders, and 24-inch bicycles for third graders," Crook said. "And they'll be eligible for a drawing and possibly one of the new bicycles."

"It's a way that we can have community involvement and also encourage good reading skills," lodge member Wade Scheelar said.


It didn't take much convincing from Crook and Scheelar for Urias to become involved. 

It was a no brainer — he was OK giving away 8 bikes to kids who are reading this school year. 

"I'm very passionate about this because when I was a child, I had dyslexia, and this whole reading program feeds right into that," Urias said. 

His whole life, dyslexia's been a challenge. But it's one Urias refused to stop overcoming, with some help.

"When I was in second and third grade, a teacher came along. Her name is Ms. Anthony," Urias said. "She had a child and that child was dyslexic, so she knew what I had at a time when dyslexia just wasn't known about. So, she helped me a lot."

Ms. Eloise Anthony followed Urias throughout life, becoming one of his biggest cheerleaders and supporters. That made the ride to success much easier. 

But sometimes, that ride takes a turn you're not ready for. Ms. Anthony was diagnosed with ALS late in life. 

"Well, Ms. Anthony passed away … Sorry, it's just very emotional for me," he said. "I wanted to carry on her legacy. So, to Ms. Anthony and to all teachers out there, God bless them."

A bench outside of Emerson Hough Elementary was dedicated to her by her husband.  

For Urias, Ms. Anthony's legacy lives on through him and the way he's flourished. Now, he takes that seed and plants it in his own way. 

"These kids are getting those building blocks at this age so once they get it at this age, like the reading and the math and so forth, then they will carry that on for the rest of their lives," Urias said. 

One guy can't create a community, but he can inspire a whole town. 

"There are undoubtedly going to be eight customers in my future, and those eight customers in a small town like Newton will build to 30, and those 30 will build to 60," he said. 

Building community and inspiring others is enough for Urias. 

"I love coming to work everyday," he said.

In total, Urias and the Masons are giving away eight bikes at the end of the school year in May. At the Masonic Lodge #59 in Newton, you can donate to help fund community efforts like this.

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