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Metal facility collects bicycles for needy children

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Waking up on Christmas morning to the sight of a bicycle underneath the tree is a privilege many children, but not all, enjoy.

That was the thought that dawned on Richard J. Denny II, operations manager at Empire Recycling Corp., as he watched people unload old bicycles along with heaps of scrap metal at the Watertown facility, 511 Pearl St., which opened in October. The Pulaski resident had recently heard about a Syracuse-based charity program that repairs used bicycles to give to children in low-income families for Christmas.

“As I saw the bikes come in here, I thought maybe we could bring them down there for the kids and set them aside,” he said. “The owner thought it was a great idea.”

Mr. Denny soon hatched a plan to truck bicycles dropped off at the scrap plant — some in a state of disrepair — to Syracuse for the Central New York Family Bicycle Giveaway, the nonprofit group that runs the program. The organization, which gave away 3,500 bicycles to children in the Syracuse area, needs about 1,000 more to meet its quota before Christmas.

Mr. Denny, who will make a trip to Syracuse this week to donate about 30 bicycles collected since November, hopes leaders in Watertown can collaborate to establish a similar program in the future. Bicycles will continue to be collected at Empire until Friday to benefit the program.

“I would love to help get a program here started,” he said.

Jan T. Maloff, who launched the Syracuse program 17 years ago, said he was pleasantly surprised to get a call from the Watertown facility.

The thousands of bicycles given to needy children every season have brought much joy to their lives over the years. Recipients range from youngsters who need training wheels to high schoolers who get 18-speed bicycles and even low-income parents.

“To get a call from people who set aside these bicycles in Watertown is tremendous,” the 57-year-old said. “Getting a bicycle is a rite of passage for children. We help parents who can’t afford them. Exercise is also important for children with childhood obesity being such a problem today.”

Donated bicycles are housed temporarily during the fall at the New York State Fairgrounds, where volunteers repair them. They’ll be given to local families Dec. 22.

Donations to benefit the nonprofit foundation may be mailed to Central New York Family Bicycle Giveaway, 319 Barrington Road, Syracuse, N.Y. 13214.

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