Jemez Riders Luis Santana, front row far left, and Richard Sturgeon, back row far right join a group of motorcycle riders who volunteer with the Misfitz in Albuquerque to feed and clothe the homeless. Courtesy photo
Luis Santana watches as volunteers with the Misfitz van distribute necessities to homeless folks on Central Avenue in Albuquerque. Courtesy photo
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The Jemez Riders Riding Group has garnered attention in the Los Alamos area during the last two years for the benefit runs it has organized and participated in for charity, clearing litter from the two miles of highway the group adopted on the Main Hill Road, and the promotion of motorcycle safety in the community.
The JRRG is a “patched” group. While bikers often wear colorful patches, wearing a particular group’s patch often comes with certain responsibilities or activities in which its members partake. The Jemez Riders have taken on a new ongoing endeavor in the last few months. They have joined with other riding groups and motorcycle clubs to help God’s Misfitz in Albuquerque to feed and clothe the homeless population downtown.
God’s Misfitz is a ministry that counts on volunteers – mostly motorcycle riders – that go out at around 9 p.m. on Saturday nights every two weeks to provide assistance to homeless people throughout Central Avenue, a major east-west street through Albuquerque which crosses through some pretty tough parts of town.
“They do it in a unique way because of the motorcycles. They ride down Central where they pull into some designated spots and rev their engines to let their homeless friends know in the area that God’s Misfitz have arrived with their van,” said JRRG president Richard Sturgeon during an interview with the Los Alamos Reporter. “They distribute clothing, hygiene products and food and since the weather has gotten cold, they also have soup and hot chocolate”.
Sturgeon said what prompted JRRG members to get involved with God’s Misfitz was that all the donations collected go directly to the homeless and there is no middleman – just the three people who founded the non-profit and volunteers from the motorcycle community who collection the items needed and show up to help.
JRRG member Luis Santana said prior to traveling to Albuquerque on the designated evenings, the group has gathered tents, jackets, blankets, hats, gloves, socks and other items to take with them.
“When we’ve gone down there have been about 20 volunteers. Some hand stuff out and some provide security because some of the places we go to are just rough places. The first time we went there were five of us Jemez Riders and we left Los Alamos at 6:30 p.m. and took our donations with us,” Santana said.
During the evening some 200 meals are distributed at several stops along Central. There are usually 7-10 stops depending on how many people are in the streets.
“Hopefully the homeless we have not been able to see since the weather got really cold are safe and warm in a hotel room,” Santana said. “The last time we went out we had about 190 people. We start on the far east side of Central near Eubank and we don’t end until we get to I-25.”
The meals are made from donated food and prepared in the homes of two of the founders of the Misfitz group.
Sturgeon and Santana said it’s the first time for both of them to work this closely with the homeless and both of them describe it as a life-changing experience. Sturgeon described walking around the perimeter of the stop-off points and reaching out to people they encounter – asking them if they are hungry or cold and if they would like a blanket or some food.
“They come over and we set them up with food, blankets, shoes, socks, whatever we can. It’s very personal how we do it because we’re going into their neighborhood,” Sturgeon said.
Santana said for him it’s not just shocking how many people are living on the streets but the wide range of ages from teenagers to people in their 80s and 90s.
Both men expressed the importance of showing no judgment of the homeless people they encounter.
“God’s Misfitz told us from the start there is no judgment. The only thing that we’re there to do is to feed them, clothe them, say a prayer with them, and be compassionate. But there have been a few times that several of us have met some of these homeless people and you just want to take care of them. You want to take them to a hotel and put them up for a night and spend the money for them, but that’s not what we can do. Our real job is to feed them and clothe them but it just breaks your heart sometimes. And there have been some really young ones,” Sturgeon said.
Santana believes if more people went out and spent time with the homeless, they would see them in a new light. The two men noted that many of the people have God in their hearts and want to pray with the volunteers.
“They are so grateful for anything we do to help them,” Santana said.
Sturgeon could not say enough about the other motorcycle groups that participate in the Misfitz program.
“They are some of the best people I’ve ever met, and they’ve been doing this a lot longer than we have. We are learning from them every time we go out. They volunteer their time and resources and ask for nothing in return. They are honestly the best humanity has to offer,” he said.
Among the riders that help the Misfitz are: Rebels With A Cause Motorcycle Club, Sons of Liberty Riders Motorcycle Club, Hellfighters Motorcycle Mission, Desert Posse Motorcycle Club, American Patriot Vanguard Motorcycle Club, Guardians of the Children Motorcycle Organization, Disowned Motorcycle Club and the Steel Gypsyz Motorcycle Club. The Bandidos MC held a Coat Drive Dec. 9 and received so many donations that they were able to contribute numerous coats to the Misfitz.
When JRRG members go back to Albuquerque in January, they will take with them all the items they have gathered. They hope to increase the number of JRRG volunteers. One of their most needed items is tents.
“One guy was so overwhelmed when we gave him a tent. You can go on Amazon and get a simple tent for under $20. It is like giving a homeless person a house. We saw so many people that had these makeshift shelters and a couple of them didn’t have anything and you would have thought that we had put them up in the Hilton. It keeps the wind off them and it gives them a space so they have something,” Sturgeon said.
Items for distribution by God’s Misfitz to the homeless may be ordered on Amazon.com and sent directly to Jacqui Boyd, 1958 Hopi Rd., Santa Fe, NM 87505. Items such as individually wrapped nutrition bars, hand warmers, socks, hats, gloves, blankets, etc. will be particularly welcomed.
Monetary donations may be made at https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=8G4MD9LYVJW2A.
Meanwhile, watch out for announcements about donation drop-off dates and locations in the coming months.