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Empowering lives, one bike at a time

Four area high schools — La Cañada High, Crescenta Valley High, South Pasadena and Hoover High — are collecting bicycles over the summer to donate to homeless men and women living on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles.

Teens of the student-run LOOK International group plan to collect at least 100 bicycles. Peter Lee, the 17-year old president of the organization, incoming senior and founder of LOOK International, said it’s an “empowerment project.”

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The idea of donating bicycles to homeless men and women came after several group visits to Skid Row, where the teens spoke with people who said they landed there because they lost their jobs and homes. The first time Lee visited Skid Row he spoke with a homeless man who told him about how he got where he was and how it made him feel.

“He told me, and this still sticks with me today, ‘If a man cannot provide for himself he is no man at all,’” said Lee, who hopes the bikes will allow people to better provide for themselves.

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Students will work with Los Angeles regional homeless services organizations to find needy men and women to determine who will receive the bikes. From there, members of LOOK International will approach businesses near Skid Row to hopefully find jobs for the 100 bike recipients.

“This would influence them significantly,” said Emily Schin, a 16-year old incoming junior and co-president of LOOK International at La Cañada High. “Instead of donating food, this gives them a way to transport themselves and it can make their lives a little bit easier.”

LOOK International is asking the communities of La Cañada, Glendale, South Pasadena and Crescenta Valley to help by donating bicycles. The group of 30 students plans to distribute the bicycles to transients in a ceremony at Gladys Park near Skid Row on Aug. 14.

Every two weeks, members of LOOK International visit Skid Row on a Sunday morning to distribute food and visit with the people living there. The group already has distributed more than 200 bags of food to Skid Row transients.

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When Joseph Song, a 16-year old incoming junior and co-president of LOOK International at LCHS, first visited Skid Row he felt like he was making a difference.

“I felt really bad for those people, but it made me feel good I was actually doing something instead of just watching something or reading something in the headlines about how many people are living in poverty,” Song said.

Lee formed LOOK International last year after a fellow Crescenta Valley High School student’s father was killed in a hit-and-run collision in Montrose. He and group members raised $10,000 for the student’s family.

“This is the second project we’re trying to accomplish on a bigger scale, on a county level,” Lee said.

Collections began July 1 and go to Aug. 3. Each high school LOOK International chapter is looking to collect 25 bikes but Lee wouldn’t mind La Cañada exceeding expectations.

“We are hoping La Cañada is the most supportive,” Lee said. “Whatever help they could give us to help make a change would be great.”

To donate bicycles or cycling equipment in La Cañada, contact Joseph Song at (818) 590-5634 or josephmsong@gmail.com. To donate in the Crescenta Valley, call Peter Lee at (818) 808-9905 or 1994leepeter@gmail.com.

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