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Seniors Cordell Malone (left), Kyle Cruz (center) and Joe Parochetti (right) work to finish putting together a bike during Joe Panzica’s class at Hall High School. Each year, Hall students raise funds for and assemble bicycles for a toy drive hosted by Project Success of Eastern Bureau County Inc. The organization hosts an annual “Santa’s Workshop” to let parents in low-income families “shop” for presents for their children.
No elves could be seen in Hall High School’s auto shop, but busy hands made quick work of assembling 42 bicycles to surprise local children: Members of Joe Panzica’s auto mechanics classes and the Power Mech club. A handful of seventh-period students tightened bolts, removed plastic and cardboard wrapping, fastened streamers to handle bars and reminded one another not to roll the bikes across the dirty shop floor, lest they scuff the new, white tires. Building bikes to give to underprivileged children is a Christmas tradition dating back eight or nine years, according to science club moderator Nikki Barto. Her students started the project by “adopting” two children from a giving tree at St. Anthony’s Church in Spring Valley. “The first year, we did two bikes and two coats,” she recalled, “and then it just kind of grew from there.” The fundraiser has grown and is supported by faculty and staff at the school, as well as donations from state Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley). In recent years, they have been taken instead to Project Success of Eastern Bureau County Inc., which hosts a toy drive and lets parents choose among the collected toys for Christmas gifts for their children. Participants are accepted through the food pantry or referrals from local schools. Panzica expected another 10 bicycles would arrive, fully assembled or ready to be built by students, before the full donation of 52 bicycles would be brought to the organization later this week. The boxed bicycles fit into the back of two students’ pickups, but students expected they would need at least three to deliver the fully-assembled bikes. Panzica said the effort is a great reflection on the character of Hall students. “You hear so much about kids not caring, kids not doing anything,” Panzica said. “I think the kids here do a lot. “They ask about it. They’re excited about it.” The effort is well-known in Spring Valley, said Panzica, who said he has been stopped by people in the community who want to tell him what they think of the annual donation. “We get a lot of positive feedback about this,” he said.