SKOWHEGAN — Neil Woodard, Skowhegan’s locally famous “Bottle Man,” sat Monday morning in the shade of his covered veranda.

Parked nearby: a new red tricycle, its rear basket already full with returnable cans and bottles.

His new trike — a Schwinn Meridian he named Luka — was purchased with community donations and was followed by a Facebook page that has generated more than 2,000 likes in a few days.

Woodard’s old trike, which he calls Vicky, sat next to the new one, its paint chipped, the seat and chain gone and the frame broken at the axle.

“I love the bike — I love the other bike, too,” he said, his bright blue eyes accented by a white beard and long white hair combed back, revealing a healing gash on his forehead.

Woodard, 51, who waves at every passing motorist around town as he makes his rounds collecting bottles and cans for cash, took a bad fall Oct. 7 and ended up in the hospital. A story about Woodard’s injury in the Morning Sentinel the following day prompted a Canaan man, Rick Sisco, a former tavern bouncer and occasional disc jockey, to launch a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a new trike for Woodard.

The goal was just over $700 for the trike and accessories, such as LED lights and a tall safety flag, from Wal-Mart, but Sisco said he stopped taking donations when it quickly reached $1,200. The extra money was used to buy Woodard a warm coat, socks, pants and sneakers and the rest was deposited for use later.

A subsequent posting on Sisco’s Skowhegan Community Matters page on Facebook galvanized community support and well wishes for Woodard. By Monday morning, the page had received more than 2,000 likes.

Comments included: “This is awesome. It’s good to see the community come together like this. Neil is such a sweet wonderful man.” And “This melts my heart in so many ways!”

Sisco, 45, said he started the Skowhegan Community Matters Facebook page about a year ago for just such a project as the Bottle Man fundraising campaign — getting people to do more things for other people while posting local happenings and getting people more involved in community matters.

“I think everybody wants to do a good deed for somebody else,” Sisco said Monday. “I think seeing that about Neil is encouraging people to participate more. I’ve had several people message me telling me that if I decide to do something for somebody else to let them know. They’re interested in helping.”

He said a local web designer has offered his services if Sisco wants to do another project.

Sisco, who works at Family Pet Connection on Skowhegan Village Plaza, said he and his five kids ages 5 to 22 helped him assemble the trike in his garage last week.

Woodard said he is still stiff from the fall, but is feeling better.

“I feel alright now,” he said from his porch on a quiet side street on the east side of North Avenue. He also displayed scrapes and bruises on his left arm, which took some of the impact from his fall on Spring Street. He said his ribs ache, too, but otherwise he’ll be up and back to work in no time. He said he can make as much as $10 a day cashing in the bottle deposits.

Woodard said he’ll probably continue walking with the new trike, Luka, as he has done for so long with his old one, Vicky.

“I love walking,” he said. “I think that maybe if I walk, it’s going to keep me a lot more stronger.”

He said the outpouring of support made him feel good about the community.

“I love the idea,” he said. “I love it when people think that I’m doing things right. They think I’m doing right and they show me they do. I’d do anything for Skowhegan.”

Woodard said he has been collecting bottles and cans “for quite a few years” but couldn’t pinpoint the dates. He said the large basket at the back of the trike will be for his cans and bottles — his “empties.” The small front basket mounted on the handlebars will be for snacks and stuff that he might need, such as a screw driver or pliers if he needs to make repairs on Luka.

He said he came to Skowhegan from Bingham some years ago after falling in love with a beautiful girl and just decided to stay.

“I love Skowhegan,” he said. “Skowhegan is the kindest, loving place of people. Dogs and cats, they care for me, too. I wave at everybody just to be nice.”

Sisco said doing something nice for someone else feels good.

“It feels amazing to make him happy, and at the same time, it feels amazing to see the way the community is coming together, the way that everyone feels about the same situation with him,” he said. “They wanted to basically pay it forward. People are talking about maybe doing something like this every month or two for somebody.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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