Cape Tech Students Refurbish Bicycles For Habitat Residents

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Cape Cod Tech , Housing and homelessness , Roads, highways and transportation

From left: Shannen Hardy, SkillsUSA chapter secretary; Etzer Lindor, chapter sergeant at arms; Alyssa Bach, chapter president; and Sophie Dolan, vice president, display a few of the bikes they have refurbished for Habitat for Humanity Cape Cod residents. All are juniors at Cape Cod Tech. COURTESY PHOTO


PLEASANT LAKE — Cape Cod Regional Technical High School students have a history of helping Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod, and now they’re looking to take the people who live in Habitat homes for a ride. A bicycle ride, that is.

Students at the Pleasant Lake school are repairing and restoring bicycles to give to Habitat residents. The project is part of a SkillsUSA Week community service initiative the school takes on each year, a national leadership competition among vocational school students.

Retired health teacher Peggy Reilly-O’Brien has coordinated student participation in the national program for the past several years. While she retired last year, Reilly-O’Brien said she wanted to come back again this year so she could work with students on SkillsUSA, so she is teaching one class and advising the SkillsUSA Week program. The student-entered national competition focuses on leadership, with students developing a community service project. They devise 10 to 15 tasks they seek to accomplish, Reilly-O’Brien said.

The pandemic has made it difficult because students can’t go out and perform hands-on community projects. The students usually contribute to Habitat’s “Dream Builders Breakfast” each February, Reilly-O'Brien said, but the breakfast was put on hold this year. The students also do work at Habitat housing construction sites, but can’t be making those contributions during the pandemic.

Reilly-O’Brien said she saw an article about a woman who was donating bicycles and she pitched the idea of the students collecting gently used bicycles, repairing and improving them and giving the bikes to Habitat for Humanity to distribute among families living in Habitat homes. There is a shortage of bikes in the United States and around the world, Reilly-O’Brien said, attributed to the desire of more people to get outdoors and exercise during the pandemic.

The students have received bicycle donations from faculty, staff and families of students. Presently the students are refurbishing them, replacing rusty chains, providing new cables, repairing shifts, tires and seats and repainting them.

“Putting them back together has been the most challenging part of this,” said Alyssa Bach, president of the SkillsUSA team. “Then we paint them a completely different color.”

“A lot of us have siblings and cousins and remember the first bike they got,” added SkillsUSA Secretary Shannen Hardy. “It was exciting. Some of these families may not have the best finances so it will be great seeing them get a bike.”

“There are tricycles up to adult bikes and hopefully a whole family will end up with bikes,” said Reilly-O’Brien.

The students are doing a lot of work on their own time, but the school’s auto collision department teachers Kenny Townsend and Dwayne Dewitt have been working with them during class.

Many of these bikes were not ready to ride, Townsend said. Some had rusty chains and needed to be sandblasted, sanded and refurbished. Tires and tubes needed to be repaired. Students from different departments and within the auto collision department helped out, Townsend added.

“These are transferable skills,” Townsend said of the experience.

Hardy said the bikes they are working on are mostly finished. There are plans to transfer the bikes to Habitat staff on Thursday with Channel 5 WCVB present to capture the moment.

Townsend said there may be more bikes coming in. Bach said the Rotary Club has offered to provide more bikes.

Hardy and SkillsUSA Vice President Sophia Dolan said this is something the SkillsUSA team will likely do in the future because they have received such great feedback from it, and the kids have enjoyed doing it.