Unemployment is expected to go up and more permanent job losses are looming. This is one woman’s story of struggle in pandemic unemployment.

Indianapolis Star

John Wessel’s bicycle was first stolen from outside his workplace in October. 

His 13-year-old son bought it for him, he said, because he knew “that I need something to get to work with.” 

“Going home and telling him somebody took the bike he gave me, it made me sad,” said Wessel, who works as a night custodian at the Birch Bayh Federal Building in downtown Indianapolis.

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A few of the security guards in the building bought Wessel a new bike, which he kept chained outside the federal building as he worked. Then, fewer than 30 days later, “someone stole that one, too,” he said.

Since his second bike was stolen last week, Wessel, 35, has walked nearly 3 miles back and forth to work every night from his home just northwest of downtown. Wessel doesn’t drive, and he says walking or taking a bike to work helps him save money. 

John Wessel, 35, of Indianapolis, got a new bike from the Lawrence Police Department and Matthews Bicycles after his first two bikes were stolen from outside his work in downtown Indianapolis. (Photo: Lawrence Andrea)

“My family comes first,” said Wessel, who has three children. He said he has been working as a custodian in Indianapolis through Goodwill Industries for nearly six years, adding that he has had to walk miles to work or get rides from co-workers at previous jobs. 

But on Wednesday, Lawrence police presented Wessel with a new bicycle and a cut-proof lock.

“The credit goes to Matthews Bicycle shop for donating the bike,” Lawrence Police Department Deputy Chief Gary Woodruff said, noting that he went to Matthews Bikes after federal building security informed him about Wessel’s issue.

“He has some challenges in his life, like many do currently, and this bike is just critical for him to get back and forth to work,” Woodruff said. “He’s trying to support his family.”

Nancy Parent, owner of Matthews Bicycles in Lawrence, noted that many people are struggling financially as the coronavirus pandemic has prevented them from working. She said donating the bike to Wessel was “the right thing to do.”

“People are really struggling right now, and I just said, ‘You know what? This guy needs some help,'” Parent said.

For Wessel, the new bike and cut-proof lock show people care and are looking out for him.

“People out here are kind,” he said. “They got a good heart. I’m thankful for everybody who looked out for me and got me this bike.” 

In addition to the cut-proof lock, Wessel said he is now allowed to keep his bike inside the federal building while he works. He said he no longer has to worry about whether his bike will still be there when he ends his shift.

“I’m just thankful now I can put it in there knowing it’s going to be safe,” he said.

Contact Lawrence Andrea at 317-775-4313 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @lawrencegandrea.

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