Local cyclists raise $13,000 for Refugee and Immigrant Resettlement
Submitted by Allison Pringle
On a warm Saturday August morning, 90 bicycle riders gathered at Silverdale Lutheran Church in Silverdale, Washington for a10 mile- “Mini Martin”, 30 mile- “Brave Bavarian”, or 50 mile- “Wittenburg Warrior” ride to raise funds and awareness for refugees and immigrants. Rider registrations, sponsorships, grants, and generous individual donations helped the Ride profit over $13,000, $3,000 over their targeted goal. This impressive total for a first time, all volunteer lead event will support the mission of two local agencies: Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center (KIAC), and Lutheran Community Services Northwest Immigration and Refugee Resettlement program (LCSNW).
Representatives from five area churches: Silverdale Lutheran, Poulsbo First Lutheran, Vinland Lutheran in Poulsbo, Bethany Lutheran on Bainbridge Island, and Our Savior’s Lutheran in Bremerton, and KIAC and LCSNW banded together in this 500th anniversary year of the Protestant Reformation to partner with the community to do something positive and impactful for our global neighbors. A core group of volunteers including a teacher, stay-at-home mom, and Lutheran pastors got together last September and decided to put this event on to create unity and a shared mission. As the year developed in the planning process the world changed and the need for financial dollars and public awareness about refugees and immigrants got stronger. Pastor Sigi Helgeson reflected, “We began to plan this Reform: Ride for Refugees a year ago before the presidential election, before the travel ban and reduction on refugees being resettled, and before the immigration policy changes that have taken place in the last year. With DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals being rescinded by executive order; it seems now more than ever we need to do this work.” In the end it started with five volunteers and concluded with over 40 volunteers helping with the planning, organizing and carrying out the vision of the race. Along the way sponsors also joined in the cause including State Farm Insurance, Martha and Mary Health and Rehabilitation Services, Red Apple Market, Central Market, Northwest Washington Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America (ELCA), Thrivent Financial, Kitsap Tri-Babes, Silverdale Cyclery and Fuelrz muffins and bakery.
Riders commented that they enjoyed the ride because it was not only challenging and scenic on the Kitsap peninsula, but it was well organized, ended with a beer garden, and raised money for a worthy cause. A refugee family originally from Iran that resettled in Bainbridge Island through the support and help of Lutheran Community Services Northwest participated in the event and several riders commented that this was the first time they have seen a refugee and brought a connection and awareness that they found profound and impactful. Riders reflected that it was important to see the local connection. KIAC has served over 800 people from 34 different countries from clothing needs to legal help and LCSNW has welcomed more than 35,000 refugees over the past 40 plus years in Washington and Oregon. Co-directors Sigi Helgeson and Allison Pringle both agree that the monetary donation was a huge boost for the cause, but the impact of connecting people, congregations, and the larger community was the best measure of success.