- Associated Press - Sunday, June 5, 2016

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - Zachary Halland was not oblivious to the effects the oil downturn had on the community. But unlike most of his 15-year-old counterparts, he sought to use his skills to try to help.

“He’s always loved building things,” said his mother, Michelle Halland. She shared the story of the first bike he built from parts a couple summers ago, to emphasize his mechanical acumen.

Now with a yard full of fifty donated bicycles needing a little TLC, Halland tinkers away in the garage, surrounded by spare bike parts. Once fixed up, he’s promised the refurbished bikes to the Salvation Army so they might be paired with individuals who might have need of them, the Williston Herald (https://bit.ly/2814Eka ) reported.

Halland is an active member of the Boy Scouts of America and has since plateaued at the Life Scout rank in troop #316. He sought the organization’s highest form of recognition, the Eagle Scout, but wouldn’t settle for common community outreach projects, like painting a building or planting a tree.

If he was going to earn it, it was going to be ambitious.

His mother suggested a bike drive one morning and the idea soon kicked up speed. He had initially intended to repair children’s bikes for families until he partnered with Kristin Oxendahl, Community Engagement Director of the Williston Salvation Army.

It was then his focus broadened after discovering the Salvation Army receives more requests for adults stricken by hard times who require transportation.

“Many of these individuals take bikes to work or use them to get to job interviews,” said Salvation Army Captain Joshua Stansbury.

Since February, when his project began, the then 14-year-old, met with his scout leader, eagle scout board, received regional scout approval, and partnered with the Salvation Army to ensure he went through the proper channels.

“I never really thought of it, but it makes me feel good that it’s a project that’s helping people,” Halland said. “I think it’s a good idea for other kids in the troop to continue it.”

He used social media to help gather unused bikes and within days he received more than the garage could hold, spilling into the front yard. Adult to toddler-sized bikes awaited his attention so they might have a new lease on life, to a family that needs it.

“The community has been so generous; it’s really pretty amazing,” said Mrs. Halland. “Most of the bikes are in good shape; many the kids just outgrew them.”

He’s now led several of his troop members to help him with the large undertaking. Whether it’s lending a hand or polishing up the bikes, he has encouraged their efforts and participation.

“I’m really proud of him,” said his mother. “I’ve seen him grow a lot in this process.”

Leaders at the Salvation Army have been just as impressed.

“I think it’s awesome when the youth get involved and do projects like this for us,” said Stansbury. “I’m thrilled to be a part of this project and when the youth get involved at such a young age. I think it speaks volumes to how he was raised. Who knows where this could lead this young man?”

Halland hopes to acquire his eagle scout badge, 2 years before the average age many achieve rank.

And with every completed bike, he’s one step closer to earning his badge, and maybe even helping ease someone else’s burden.

___

Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com


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