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Eagle Scout hopeful refurbishes bikes for needy families

For the past six months, 15-year-old Luke Wass has been busy rebuilding a fleet of bicycles so that needy families in the area might have a way of getting to work and their children have a bike to call their own.

Dressed in a sash covered in merit badges, Wass said the hardest part of the work was sanding the rust off the bikes, some of which were covered in it.

"There were a lot of places (where) it didn't want to come off," said Wass, who devised the project as a way of earning his Eagle's rank, an achievement attained by only 4 percent of Boy Scouts. Hours of "elbow grease and WD-40" helped restore the bikes to a semblance of their former selves, he said.

On Friday, Wass, fellow scout Isaac Johnson and Marty Netzel, manager of Erik's Bike Shop, delivered the bikes to the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Rochester, a program that serves the area's homeless.

The restored bikes will go to families in the network's follow-along program, families that now live in apartments but often don't have cars of their own.


Joanne Markee, the network's director, said the organization won't have any trouble finding families to give the bikes to. She cited the example of one single mother who doesn't own a car and who starts work early in the morning.

"This will be a godsend for her," she said.

Wass, who is home-schooled and the son of Thomas and Sharon Wass of Rochester, said the project originated in his passion for bikes and biking. Wass competes in duathlons, contests that involve both biking and running.

Wass said he spread word of his project by sending e-mails to scouts in his troop and arranging for fliers to be put in church bulletins. His advertising efforts netted a donation of 22 bikes that came in a range of conditions, from the unusable to some that barely needed work. He was able to salvage and restore 15 of the bikes.

Wass also got help from Erik's Bike Shop. The store provided tires and tubes, cables and chains to make the bikes functional, as well as donated 18 new helmets for the bikes' new owners. Netzel said the bike shop got involved because of the worthiness of the project.

"(Luke) was also very concerned about safety for the people that were going to get these bikes," Netzel said.

Wass estimated that 150 hours were invested in rehabilitating the bikes. He said the experience was valuable in honing some "great life skills" and providing an experience that he could put on his resume. But even if he weren't striving for his Eagle's rank, Wass said, he would have found the work rewarding.

"I like serving others. I like doing things for free. Whenever I get paid for doing things, I kind of feel bad about it," Wass said.

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