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Teen pushes for using devices to soak up boat's oil <br> Project is for service to become an Eagle Scout

Spencer Rubeck aims to make himself the commander of a cleanup crew for Lake Erie.

The 17-year-old Hamburg resident came up with the plan in order to become an Eagle Scout. The idea: Get boaters to start using bilge socks, devices used to soak up the boat's oil.

The plan came to him after he first read about the oil well exploding in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Right after the gulf spill, this really hits me," Spencer said Friday.

Today, Spencer will distribute the 100 bilge socks he's managed to purchase through a grass-roots effort to boaters at Buffalo's Small Boat Harbor. Hopefully, from there, the boaters will start using the socks, he said. Back in February, Spencer began trying to come up with a community service project. He faced some deadline pressure. He needed to create, run and report on the project by the time he turned 18 on Sept. 3.

After the gulf spill, he brought the idea of buying and giving out the bilge socks to his parents.

His father, Cal Lawson, of Amherst, remembers his doubts when he first heard his son's idea.

"I thought it was going to be difficult," Lawson said. "I was worried."

Spencer first needed to collect the money for the bilge socks. He sat down at his computer and composed a letter.

In the letter, he explained his purpose: this was a community service project, allowing him to become an Eagle Scout and would help the environment, too.

He posted the letters to as many people as he could think of: old friends and family members, rod and gun clubs and every local company he could find on Google.

"It was about getting out as many as possible," Spencer said.

The response he received, he says, is what he finds best about the project.

"That's the funny thing. I didn't send these letters out until about three weeks ago," he said.

Checks for $5 or $10 began trickling into the Great Lakes Fishing Council, which helped Spencer with the accounting.

In just a week and a half, he ended up with $1,000.

With the money, Spencer bought 100 of the bilge socks. So far they've sat in boxes in a corner of his dinning room.

After Spencer passes them out today, he will look forward to the end of a summer vacation.

Spencer will entering his senior year at St. Francis High School in Athol Springs when school resumes in September. After that, he's not sure what his future holds.

"There are a lot of things that I could do," he said. "But I definitely feel like community service projects will be in my future."

e-mail: abrown@buffnews.com

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