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Retiree Gets Wheels to the Needy

A trip to the Westport Transfer Station a few years ago gave Brooks Sumberg an idea for a way to help others. "I saw all these bikes people were throwing away. A lot of them were in good condition," said the 61-year-old retired salesman. "I thought to myself, 'I should do something about this.' "

That "something" was the Connecticut Bike Project, which collects and distributes used and refurbished bikes to low-income families and those who need them for transportation. With the help of area churches and synagogues, Brooks, a former Peace Corps volunteer, holds about 24 bike drives a year. On Sunday, bikes were collected at Temple Israel, Brooks' synagogue. In the first year, the project took in about 1,100 bikes. Since March, more than 1,000 bikes have been gathered. Many go to ex-convicts and immigrant families living in Bridgeport, Brooks said.

Though the bike project keeps him busy, Brooks said he found himself wanting to do more. That's when he launched Harvest Now and reached out to area churches and synagogues to build community vegetable gardens.

"Food banks are being inundated with requests and they can't supply enough food," he said.

Since April, 10 faith-based gardens have been built, all but one in surrounding towns in Fairfield County. All of the bounty goes to the Connecticut Food Bank, which distributes the produce to local food pantries, Brooks said.

"This summer, 1,700 pounds of fresh produce was collected," he said. "I hope to be able to do more next year."

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