Bike Out Hunger rolls through Athens
Posted by : November 21, 2012| On :
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS-Around 9 a.m. Saturday, patrol cars escorted nearly 45 bicycle riders from the courthouse square up State Highway 31 through downtown Athens, past Walmart and safely across Loop 7 at Farm-to-Market 1616. The spectacle, which took up one whole lane of roadway that chilly morning with temperatures hovering around 45 degrees, was staged to bring attention to the problem of hunger in East Texas.
The First Baptist Church of Athens sponsored the inaugural Bike Out Hunger event. Church member Scott Shelton brought the ride to Athens with support from fellow church members, The Athens Bike Club and Bike Out Hunger founder Rand Jenkins.
Founded in Texas in 2009 with its first ride in the spring of 2010, the organization has initiated 350 rides of various lengths, from week-long to day rides, raising funds and awareness about the issues of hunger.
“On an awareness level, it’s been very successful,” Rand told The Monitor. “Everywhere a ride has taken place, at least one new feeding program has been started or expanded.” He also said the rides have raised a total of $250,000 with some corporate sponsorship. “Most of the funds raised by the riders stay in the town where the event was held,” Jenkins explained. The rest goes to the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering and the Texas Hunger Initiative with food distribution carried out by the students of the Baylor College of Social Work.
In Athens, the majority of the funds will support the opening of The Athens Soup Kitchen at 419 N. Prairieville Rd. the first of the New Year. Toward the end of the 26- and 45-mile rides Saturday, bicyclists stopped for a tour of the soup kitchen and to learn more about hunger and what’s available in Athens to help alleviate it.
Also in Athens is The Food Pantry located on 7105 East Corsicana St. off of State Highway 31.
The 2010 U.S. Census indicates that 25 percent of the population in the Athens area is living below the poverty line. For three years, churches and individuals in the area have cooperated to provide a Meal of Kindness once a month at the Eastern Hills Church of Christ. Many of these same individuals and groups are backing the opening of the soup kitchen to provide more meals a month to those in need.
So far, that effort has provided a roomy location in the vicinity of those in the greatest need. The organization is also in the process of gaining tax-exempt status with the IRS and a pool of volunteers to operate the concern is being expanded.
“God has been at work in Athens and the surrounding communities to bring churches together to serve our people in a mighty way,” volunteer coordinator Paula Millar said. “We sincerely believe that He will provide what we need to make the Athens Soup Kitchen a place of service to those in need.” For more information, or to volunteer give her a call at (903) 275-1365.
The kitchen identifies itself with Matthew 11:28-30, which begins: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give your rest.”
Jenkins told The Monitor, one of the reasons he enjoys cycling is that it gives him the opportunity to think through problems and clarify his thoughts. He said it was on one of these rides that he conceived the idea for biking out hunger. As the communications director for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, he also had a vehicle through which he could see his idea become a reality.
“I was out on a ride and got to thinking about the many fundraising activities I’ve been involved in and thought we don’t we combine bikes and hunger,” he said.
The first week-long ride in 2010 drew just five riders, however a total of 80 joined them during their week-long ride, he said.
Learn more about it at bikeouthunger.texasbaptists.org.