Michigan Bikers Help Feed Hungry Families

By: Alex Goldsmith Email
By: Alex Goldsmith Email

Sunday afternoon at Immanuel Community Reformed Church is probably the last place most people would expect to find bikers.

"I don't think people here were used to seeing so much chrome in the parking lot on Sunday," said Linda Heusinkveld, wive of the church's pastor, Rev. Richard Heusinkveld.

But Rev. Heusinkveld isn't your typical pastor. He and his wife are both avid bikers.

"The people in my congregation think it's a neat thing," said Rev. Heusinkveld. "It shows people that pastors are human and enjoy life just like everyone else does."

Both Richard and Linda ride with STAR Touring & Riding, a national family-oriented biker group. Every year, the Michigan group chooses a county in need to hand out food in. With Ingham County's unemployment rate near 11%, the county became a natural choice.

"There's really a need in this area and it really just helped out people who are having tough times," said Debra Whitney, a program manager with Ingham County's Department of Human Services. "We've seen [the number of people using our services] grow 50% in the past two years."

That made the parking lot at Rev. Heusinkveld's church as good a spot as any to bring in a semi-truck full of food, personal items and toys to give out.

Bikers worked side by side with Rev. Heusinkveld's congregation to hand out the goods to 400 pre-selected families. The families were chosen by Ingham County's Department of Human Services on the basis of need. They were given vouchers and a time to collect the food and goods.

Feeding children is an issue near and dear to STAR's heart.

"If a family or organization is in distress, it's the children that suffer the most so we want to make sure they're supported and provided for," said Tom Neil, STAR's Michigan State Director.

"Food is something everyone needs and it affects children especially," said Rev. Heusinkveld. "It's just a real blessing to be able to do this."

STAR also hopes that their actions Sunday help the community see them in a different light.

"The way we act and comport ourselves says something about the people we are and want to be portrayed to the general public," said Neil.

"You have people who've seen biker movies from the 60's and expect bikers to be rowdy and selfish individuals," said Rev. Heusinkveld. "This group is exactly the opposite."

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