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Motorcyclists do their part to aid local families in need

December 09, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The only difference between Santa Claus' sleigh and a 1985 Yamaha Venture Royale motorcycle is the handling.

"A sleigh would do much better in the snow," said T.V. Davis, 51, who led a pack of bikers bearing a truckload of food into downtown Hagerstown Sunday wearing a Santa Claus suit and a genuine, white frosted beard.

Members of the motorcyclists association ABATE (A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments) glided into the Adventist Community Center at 27 W. Franklin St. with a truckload of donated nonperishable food.

The Washington County Chapter of ABATE, a national motorcycling rights and safety advocate association, and the community center have been partnering up to feed the community's poor for the past 10 years after ABATE found a need to branch out its charity services.

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ABATE Chapter Assistant Coordinator Susie Snow said the association began its quest to feed underprivileged families about 18 years ago.

The association began by bringing canned foods to individual families, then branched to community action councils and finally grew to food banks like the Adventist Community Center.

"They're definitely angels - angels in leather," center Director Sandy Martin said,

Martin said the center, which is sponsored by five area Seventh-day Adventist churches, is only open Tuesdays and Thursdays, but serves about 30 families each day with food and clothing.

The center served 2,400 families last year. Martin said there is a higher need this year and she expects to feed more in the community.

She said about 25 percent of the food at the center is supplied by the government and the rest is dependent on donations. Since Sept. 11, 2001, donations have decreased and getting food to the community is a little more difficult, she said.

"Life is a little more important now," she said.

Martin can always rely on ABATE, though, and despite the somewhat icy road conditions Sunday she knew the members' Harley-Davidsons, Hondas and Yamahas would maneuver over the hill without fail.

Only about 10 motorcycles actually made it to Franklin Street, some bikers not able to get their bikes out, but all 254 ABATE chapter members had a hand in raising funds for the supplies.

Among raffles and canned food drives, the association also held a memorial ride for fallen member and co-founder Millie von Sternberg, who died in a motorcycle accident last November. The run brought out 186 bikers to raise $3,000 for the association's two holiday charity events.

ABATE of Washington County also donates presents to San Mar Children's Home in Boonsboro. Snow said the group spent six hours Saturday wrapping books, music and comforts for the gift drop-off Sunday night.

"This is our community, too," said Chapter President Lance E. Baker of Boonsboro. "We all have jobs, we all push for registered voters and work for candidates."

Baker said the holiday bike run is just one of the ways the group gives back to the community.

The men and women, dressed in leather chaps, sweaters and bandannas, formed an assembly line to carry the plastic grocery bags filled with cans and boxes into the lobby of the center.

Davis, who substituted his Santa Claus helmet for a traditional red and white fluffy hat, gave a gruff chuckle and said, "We know who's been naughty and who's been nice."

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