Riding for shoeboxes

Published 9:18 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Raiford Baker, founder of the Shoebox Ride for Operation Christmas Child, rode with wife Rhonda during the inaugural ride in 2010.

Raiford Baker, founder of the Shoebox Ride for Operation Christmas Child, rode with wife Rhonda during the inaugural ride in 2010.

Motorcycle enthusiasts are a charitable bunch, says Amanda Smith, pastor at Corinth Friends Meeting, a small Quaker church in Southampton County.

Smith doesn’t ride, but her parents, Raiford and Rhonda Baker, enjoy getting out on their Harley Davidson.

For years, Smith said, her parents have supported Operation Christmas Child, which assembles and sends out decorated shoeboxes with gifts inside to impoverished children around the world.

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“Five or six years ago Dad bought a motorcycle, and wanted to find a way to raise more money and pack more shoeboxes,” Smith said.

That’s how the Shoebox Ride was born.

On Sept. 13, riders who’ve paid to participate will meet at Somerton Friends Meeting — a Quaker church in Suffolk — before setting out on a 1-½-hour ride around the countryside, avoiding major roads and interstates.

It will be the fifth such annual event, and Smith hopes for a strong turnout so as many shoeboxes as possible can be sent out to needy children.

“Last year we had about 60 to 65 riders,” Smith said. “A lot of them had a passenger with them. We are hoping for 100 or better this year.”

Involvement this year by the Suffolk and Norfolk chapters of the Christian Motorcycle Association should stimulate participation, she said.

“They are some of the kindest, most generous people I have ever come across in my life, and I have only ever worked in ministry,” Smith said of motorcyclists in general.

“They are very giving (and) they love to get together with other motorcycle enthusiasts.”

A lot of new businesses have also gotten involved, Smith added, providing things like startup needs and door prizes. Smith specifically mentioned PDI Heat Air Conditioning, which will pay shipping costs for the shoeboxes.

Another one of the sponsors is North Suffolk’s Tidewater Motorcycles. “We sponsor them every year, because we think it’s a really good cause,” owner Pam Mathis said.

The range of the causes Tidewater Motorcycles supports underpins Smith’s argument about the giving nature of the motorcycling crowd.

The small business on Godwin Boulevard supports Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department, the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore’s Mayflower Marathon Food and Fund Drive, Special Olympics Virginia, Suffolk Police Department’s Top Cop awards and various other causes.

During chili dog social Tuesdays, a collection jar is put out for whatever the cause happens to be, Mathis said, adding that they do so because they have the ability to.

“It’s easier for a lot of people to donate a little bit than for one person to donate a lot,” she said.

Meanwhile, Amanda Smith said the Shoebox Ride also includes a light breakfast of doughnuts, pastries and coffee, served before riders leave from the church at 5239 Quaker Drive at 10:30 a.m.

Each participant receives a welcome bag, and lunch — barbecue cooked onsite, sides, dessert and Pepsi products — is served after riders return about noon.

“A lot of bands are providing music, and we are giving away almost 40 door prizes,” Smith said.

Registration, from 9 a.m., costs $20 for male and $10 for female riders, while for passengers it’s $5.

For more information, visit www.shoeboxride.com and www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child.