BELLOWS FALLS -- Brenda Eno walked in the door with about two-thirds of a wheel.
A certified occupational therapist assistant with the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union, she wanted to refurbish a 20-year-old tricycle that had been sitting in the SU’s office basement for years. So she brought in one of its wheels to the BF Community Bike Project on Canal Street to see if the volunteers there could fix it.
But volunteer Todd Ward said the trike was in really rough shape. Eno, however, was determined to be able to provide a safe ride to students in the Life Skills program at Bellows Falls Union High School, specifically a freshman named Stella Lillie, who has multiple disabilities.
"(Eno) came in and said, ‘Could you guys fix this tire?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know. What is all this for?’"Ward told the Reformer. "And we got talking and I asked her to bring the whole (trike) in and we took a look at the whole thing and we were basically like, ‘Wow, it’s in horrible shape and there is nothing we can adapt to it.’
"Everything was oddball," he added. "So we discussed the options and she asked about costs and I said, ‘You guys just pay for supplies.’ And so the adventure began."
Ward said volunteers with the BF Community Bike Project worked roughly four months to make a custom tricycle and modify it to fit Lillie’s needs. He also said numerous area professionals offered their niche skills to get the job done. He said parts of the trike were fused together by a professional bike welder and a machinist drilled holes in its brakes. Someone volunteered to sandblast the rust off the trike, Khameleon Koatings applied some graphics to it and a woodworker constructed a wooden board required to accommodate Lillie’s needs.
"Without all these other guys, I wouldn’t have been able to do it," he said. "Here’s the key thing ... there is nothing on that (trike) that you cannot buy now at a hardware store or a bike shop.
And now the average bike mechanic or someone who is mechanically inclined can work on it."
Eno said Lillie loves the new trike and rides it twice a day. She also said she was amazed to see how members of the community helped a young girl they have never met.
"It was great," she said. "And I loved how they bounced ideas off of each other."
Bonnie Anderson, the founder and director of the BF Community Bike Project, said the effort to create a trike for someone like Lillie epitomizes the mission of the organization she started in 2013.
"It was so many of the different reasons why we’re here," she said, adding that she was mostly involved in the decision-making, including the choice to make the trike taxicab yellow in color. "It’s helping out a teenager ... and it’s pulling the community together to do some positive work and allowing people to learn in the process."
Anderson said the trike has also been used by the Westminster Center School and Ward said the WNESU has approached the BF Community Bike Project in regards to creating more products.
"We just had a blast doing it," he said. "It was a true community-based effort -- everyone came together."
The BF Community Bike Project is part of a Bellows Falls Union High School Community Based Learning program, Eno said. She mentioned the program was started this school year, with many local businesses participating and supporting BFUHS students. Area businesses that participated in the Community Based Learning program include: JoAnna’s Glamorama, J & H Hardware, Father’s Restaurant, Subway, Shona Grill, Pizza Palace, BDR Transport, Greater Rock Fitness, Final Cut Video, FACT TV, Allen Bros., Community Clothes Closet, Community Supper, J & W Auto, Bellows Falls Day Care, Lisai’s Corner Deli, Dari Joy, BFUHS Café Services, Woodstone Windows and Doors, Curves Fitness, NAPA Auto Parts, Hill House Day Care, the Rockingham Free Public Library, Church Street Kitchen Restaurant and Our Place Drop-In Center.
For more information, or if you want to be part of this program, call BFUHS at 802-463-3944 and ask for Brenda Eno.