Richard Evans knows that things don’t always go according to plan.
The 54-year-old from Lithopolis broke multiple ribs, his neck and lost an arm in a motorcycle crash in 2012. Since then, his life hasn’t been the same but he hasn’t let that stop him from helping those in need.
Evans is one of the founders of Saddle Tramps, a local motorcycle club that prepares, delivers and serves food to the Faith Mission on Grant Avenue in Downtown Columbus every Thanksgiving.
Evans understands what clients at the mission are going through, he said, because his own life has been unpredictable. Despite the 2012 crash, Evans, who goes by Ricochet, rode in on a three-wheeler with his fellow club members Thursday.
“I never thought this would happen to me,” Evans said. “You don’t always expect life to come at you the way it does but you’ve got to deal with it.”
The meals provided by the Saddle Tramps feed around 250 people staying at the Faith Mission, said Lauren Wilson, executive director of the nonprofit homeless shelter. The food includes about 15 turkeys and platters of sides to go with them that Evans and others dropped off Thursday morning.
The mission, which is run by Lutheran Social Services, provides about 83,000 nights of stay to men, women and veterans, according to the organization. The mission also provides three meals a day to its clients.
With hundreds of thousands of meals served a year to clients, the mission relies heavily on donations like those from the Saddle Tramps, Wilson said. The annual meal also brings a bit of normalcy to people whose lives may be in turmoil, Wilson said.
“Folks in shelter may already be feeling isolated and lonely, they’re going through a tough time in their life,” Wilson said. “Being able to provide a Thanksgiving meal in that tradition brings familiarity and just like it does for the rest of us, a little bit of joy.”
In a typical year, members of the Saddle Tramps would go inside and serve food to people staying at the mission. They’d also sit down and eat with clients, Evans said.
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But out of caution for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, members of the Saddle Tramps aren’t able to be as involved as they have in the past. Since they haven’t been able to eat alongside mission clients the last two years, the Saddle Tramps put on a bit of a show and rev their motorcycle engines outside.
The Saddle Tramps began spending their Thanksgiving Day at the Faith Mission in 2006.
A year earlier, Evans and his 12 brothers and sisters and other family members had decided to have a competition to see who could cook the best-tasting turkey. After seeing how much food they made for the competition, they came up with the idea that they should do it every year except donate it to the mission, Evans said.
It’s been 16 years since the Saddle Tramps first brought Thanksgiving lunch to the mission and they plan to continue doing so “as long as we possibly can,” said Lawrence Evans, who co-founded the motorcycle club with his brother Richard Evans.
The tradition even continued the year the two brothers lost their sister in a crash on the way to the Faith Mission.
Donna Evans, 48, died in a motorcycle crash on Thanksgiving Day in 2009. Although her death devastated her siblings, they said they keep riding and volunteering on the holiday to honor her.
Another year while volunteering at the Faith Mission on Thanksgiving, Lawrence Evans said he ran into a cousin of his who was staying there. He hadn’t seen his cousin in two or three years and in that moment he said he realized how lucky he was and why the motorcycle club needs to continue giving back.
“You never know; any one of us could be just two to three weeks away from being in that same position,” Lawrence Evans said. “We just keep doing it. … We have to do this.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Amid COVID, motorcycle club keeps making holiday meal for people in need