One of the joys of my job is connecting with people. I often do that by visiting individual donors in their homes or places of business. I also connect with pastors by meeting them at their church or when I attend one of Mennonite Church USA’s or Mennonite Church Canada’s regional annual assemblies. However, I am also very involved with the planning and execution of one large annual event called Bike Shenandoah, Cycle for Service.
By Steve Carpenter
In 2012, shortly after coming on staff, I took over helping with this event from Sheri Hartzler, who represented Third Way Media (TWM) on the Bike Shen organizing committee for many years. TWM merged with Mennonite Publishing Network to form MennoMedia in July, 2011. Our involvement as an agency has continued.
Bike Shen, now in its 17th year, is a cooperative fund raising effort between seven agencies with ministries or offices in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The ride supports three primary agencies, whose work is international in scope, including: Virginia Mennonite Missions, Mennonite Central Committee, and MennoMedia. In addition four local Harrisonburg-based ministries receive a smaller portion of the funds. They are: Bridge of Hope, NewBridges Immigrant Resource Center, Our Community Place and Roberta Webb Child Care Center.
This year we had beautiful weather and record attendance. The 128 participants choose between a challenging 100 mile trek and an easy 5 mile jaunt, or something in between, as they traversed Harrisonburg and Rockingham County back roads on September 20. The ride raised $24,476 which is an increase over the previous year.
Here’s a link to some pictures of this year’s ride: Bike Shenandoah along with one of my favorites, below, of a grandfather and his four-year-old granddaughter riding in the five- mile family-friendly route.
Last year MennoMedia’s slice of the pie was $4,631, up 34% from the previous year. This year, with record attendance and reduced expenses, it is likely to be higher still. This year’s total has not yet been announced. Even though this event does not produce a huge amount of money, it does give MennoMedia a significant boost to our undesignated donations. I participate, not only because it benefits MennoMedia financially, but because of our organization’s history with the event, and because I enjoy working collaboratively with representatives from the other agencies. The boards and staff of these other agencies provide significant volunteer assistance during the ride which makes the work load manageable.
Russ Eanes, MennoMedia’s Executive Director is an avid cyclist. He completed the Metric Century or 62 mile ride this year while his son André did the 30 mile course.
My wife Chris did the 15 mile course and was one of 11 riders who raised $300 or more from sponsors. Three of those raised more than $1,000 but she was not one of them. Each of these individuals were given the choice of an incentive gift, either a copy of the newly revised Extending the Table or a Carry Your Heart music CD by a local group, the Walking Roots Band. I was surprised that more people chose the cookbook over the CD.
Unlike an event which MennoMedia might do on its own, Bike Shen participants and donors are not shared with the supporting agencies. Thus, it is not a source for new donors who can be added to MennoMedia’s mailing list. Nonetheless, it is a fun, cooperative and community building event, not unlike the annual Virginia MCC Relief Sale, held two weeks later on the first weekend in October.
Every year Russ rides in Bike Shen. Let him know if you want to sponsor him next year. He’d love to win one of the $50 gift certificates to a local bike shop which is given as an incentive for the person who gathers the largest number of sponsors and the one who raises the most money. Let’s see if we can put him over the top next year!
Are you involved with any charity fund raising events? If yes, why do you get involved?
Unlike the recent “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge,” which many of us enjoyed watching on Facebook or YouTube, the Bike Shenandoah cycling event involves a lot of planning and hard work from many people. Do you think this type of fundraising is effective, or should we simply encourage people to give and expect results without a lot of hoopla?
We’d love to hear your comments!