Wheels of Fortune

Wheels of Fortune

Project Brings GE Scouts, Nonprofits Together

The following was used with permission from the Glen Ellyn News/Wheaton Leader. The article was written by Wilson Brown and was first published in the Glen Ellyn News/Wheaton Leader on April 27, 2006.

Greg Forkins of Glen Ellyn was never really gung-ho about bicycles, but what began as an Eagle Scout project has become much more than that.

“A lot of people, when they hear about my project, they get excited and want to help out,” said Greg, a 17-year-old who will graduate from Glenbard West High School next month.

Greg, his fellow Boy Scouts in Troop 46 at First Presbyterian Church and many volunteers spent April 15 cleaning and repairing dozens of used bicycles, tightening their bolts and brakes as part of his Eagle Scout project.

Those bikes will soon go to recent refugees to the United States who need transportation for work and school.

“I have seen firsthand how a bike can help some people,” Greg said after school April 20, talking about one fellow student who arrived in the U.S. as a refugee and uses his bicycle to get to and from school.

“Most of the families have literally lost everything,” said Susan Sperry, relations director for World Relief of Wheaton, which will give the repaired bicycles to refugees, who come from places such as Russia, Sudan, Iran, Ethiopia and Somalia.

After brainstorming Eagle Scout projects, Greg approached World Relief in early January to see if the nonprofit agency would accept bicycles.

Sperry said the bicycles are seen as an intermediary until the transplants can obtain driver’s licenses and cars.

“Greg from the Eagle Scouts had approached us initially,” Sperry said. “And the timing had just coincided.”

That’s when His Wheels International, a religious nonprofit stepped in, said Alice Teisan, executive director of the Wheaton-based organization that fixes old bicycles to be sent to Africa and to Katrina victims.

“We can let him forge the project forward for us,” Teisan said. “I said, ‘Greg, why don’t you put a bigger purpose toward this?'”

His Wheels’ volunteer mechanic also showed Greg and the rest of the Troop 46 how to repair a bicycle, Teisan said.

“Almost all the bikes need new tires, and tightening their brakes just so the bikes are rideable and safe.”

The majority of the bikes are going to refugee families living in Wheaton, Glen Ellyn and Aurora who escaped persecution in Africa and Russia, she said.

“Most refugees if you ask them,” Sperry said, “the need is there. A bike is a good intermediary.”

Greg said friends and families donated all the bicycles that the Boy Scouts repaired. About 40 were collected in all.

“It’s not as easy as just gathering bikes,” Teisan said.

The work is keeping Greg extra busy as he awaits his college acceptance letters.

“This is definitely the busiest I’ve been,” he said. He plans to deliver the bikes in coming weeks.

Teisan said this could be just the beginning for His Wheels and local Boy Scouts.

“We’re hoping to have an ongoing relationship with the Boy Scouts,” she said.