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It’s all about the comeback and then giving back.
It was a perfectly clear night in Florida when the car driven by a nurse changed the course of Lewis Isenberg’s life. It was October, 5th, 2014 and Louie was on the way back from a biker appreciation event. The driver, still wearing her scrubs from her nursing job, with her boyfriend and her groceries in the car, never saw Louie on his bike. Her boyfriend saw Louie coming through the green light, but his scream of terror was too late.
The collision was head-on, car vs bike. Louie lost the battle, big time.
“I ended up with 20 bones broken in 108 places, neck, back, skull, legs, and feet,” says Louie. “I spent nearly two weeks in a drug-induced coma, with swelling in my brain. I spent my rehab in trauma care and was told I’d never walk right again. I spent a ton of time in a wheelchair, but eventually, I made it all the way back.” Louie’s friends, Eric and Becky Dhabliwala, asked Louie’s girlfriend Kelly if they could start a GoFundMe page for Louie. The couple ended up helping to raise about $7,000 dollars, to allow Louie and Kelly to find a place to live for a post-accident.
While on the comeback trail, Louie’s compassion, which seems to permeate the hearts of so many bikers, was on full display. He could have sued the driver of the vehicle, who was clearly at fault, but he chose a different path.
“She was totally sober,” says Louie. “Accidents happen. She was crying hard at the scene. I found out she had kids, a family, and 28 years to go on a 30-year mortgage, it would have ruined her life.” Louie actually ended up with a confidential settlement from the woman’s insurance company and it led to him gaining the ability to make a move back home. “I’m originally from Pennsylvania,” says Louie, “and eventually, my dad called me to say he found me a place back up north, one I could buy for a sum of cash about equal to the settlement. That got me back home and I now have two acres of land and a two-story house built back in 1893. I’m gutting it and rehabbing it and I’m back doing what I love, working on motorcycles. I was born and raised around motorcycles.”
With a renewed purpose in life and his passion for bikes, Louie decided to also find a way to give back. Viewing what he saw as an injustice in his area schools when it came to free lunches and those who did or did not qualify, Louie came up with the idea of the Lugnut Lunch Program, named after the business where he services bikes, the Lugnut Custom Service Station, in Stonesboro, Pennsylvania.
“I still remember as a kid, standing in church lines to get food,” says Louie. “I don’t think any kid should go hungry, but the way the system is set up, not all those who are declined for the free lunch program in the Lakeview School District, should really be declined. Louie says he sees that even though some families are not in poverty, or qualify for state assistance, they might cut back on jobs, or resist bringing in too much income (like turning down a raise at work), just to qualify for a free lunch. Louie believes that shouldn’t be happening. He believes there should be equity across the board for lunches in Lakeview.
The school system put up some roadblocks for Louie to help fund the lunch program with his own money, but he’s been able to work around the challenges, having families come directly to him for assistance.
“If a family gets denied for the free lunch program in Lakeview, we verify their denial letter first,” says Louie. “But my girlfriend is a finance manager at an auto shop and she helps out at the motorcycle shop as well. If it all looks good, she cuts a check to Lakeview Cafeteria with the student’s name in the memo section, to pay for the child’s lunch. The student will get the same lunch the state-funded free lunch students receive.”
And Louie is using bikes to broker the revenue stream.
This year, Lugnut Customs is raffling off a 2000 Harley Davidson Softail, rebuilt by Louie, to raise money for the lunch program and benefit 6th graders in the Lakeview District. The $20.00 bike raffle ticket purchase gets the ticket holder into the Season Opener, held May 4th. That same day there is a live auction at Mowery’s Auction Service to benefit the Lugnut Lunch Program. The auction is free and open to all and items can be donated to be auctioned off. The raffle and auctions have been a big success. Last year Lugnut Customs sold 1,000 tickets and donated $10,000 of the proceeds to the Maple Lane Charitable Foundation. The remainder went to the Lugnut Lunch Program.”
The goal is to target not only those on the bubble for the lunch program but even higher income households. Why?
Louie says the program is incentive driven. He doesn’t want to see anyone lying about income on an application, just to qualify for free lunches. Louie says it gives parents an incentive not to fake the income levels, so they can still work hard at their job, get paid what they should, and if it puts them in a higher income bracket, then, as Louie states, “know that it won’t get taken away by the lunch lady.” The free lunch or reduced lunch program offered by the state is then available to those who might not otherwise qualify.
“Why should people who are paying taxes to fund the free lunch program, not benefit themselves?” says Louie.
It’s a way to think differently, to give back and perhaps food for thought for all of us.
To inquire about the Lugnut Lunch Program, call 724-376-MOTO, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.