Motorcycle enthusiasts raised funds for the community’s first permanent homeless shelter and outreach centre.
Used with permission from Langley Advance/Written by Troy Landreville/Published: Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Small butterflies flip-flopped in Gary Johnson’s stomach Saturday morning.
The local Salvation Army envoy had never ridden a motorcycle himself, and he hasn’t been a passenger for some 42-plus years.
That changed over the weekend when Johnson climbed on the back of a Yamaha 100 cruiser driven by Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, as they took part in the fourth annual Mercy Ride for the Homeless.
Asked if he was nervous prior to the ride, Johnson said, “A little bit, to be honest with you, yes. But it will be fun. I’m in good hands; I’m with the mayor. We’re not doing the whole ride, because he has another engagement, but I’ll have some fun.”
The hour-and-a-half long ride raises money for The Salvation Army’s Gateway of Hope (GOH), Langley’s new homeless shelter and outreach centre.
The fundraiser started at the shelter, located along the Langley Bypass beside Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
A total of 36 motorcycles travelled as a convoy, and while totals haven’t been finalized yet, Johnson figures the ride raised between $4,000 and $5,000.
For Johnson, the ride mirrors his journey in helping to make GOH a reality – a little nerve-wrenching at times, but ultimately satisfying.
“When we finally found the site, I didn’t have any doubts,” Johnson said. “I knew there would be a lot of hard work, but it’s now paid off and we’re well on our way.”
The ride has been a huge contributor to the future shelter, Johnson said.
“We have so many groups that want to help, and they came on board before we even found a site,” he said.
“They always had a vision to help us with whatever we were going to do.”
The Salvation Army will get the keys in mid-October, and the shelter should be welcoming the community’s homeless starting the week of Nov. 9.
An opening celebration is set for the end of November.
The facility will house 30 emergency beds as well as 25 supportive independent transitional beds. It will provide a daily meal centre that will feed 150 homeless and marginalized people per sitting, seven days a week, as well as a host of vocational programs including chef, custodial, and hospitality training, computer education, and counseling services.
Johnson said people looking to find instant warmth in the grip of early winter are looking forward to the shelter.
“The other day I was at the office late, about nine o’clock and I had some homeless people at the front door,” he said. “I asked them, ‘When we open the Gateway of Hope will you come in to be served?’ They said, ‘Absolutely. We really want to get out of this trench that we are in. We want to change our lives. To me, that was really encouraging.”