Compassion on Two Wheels

Holly Shanahan on June 26th, 2018

Annual Cycle for Shelter Event Seeks to Raise Funds and Awareness

Emmaus will hold its 30th annual Cycle for Shelter on July 22, when roughly 200 cyclists will pedal 20 to 100 miles to raise money for homeless individuals and families in the Merrimack Valley. Last year, participants raised $156,615. 

Emmaus began as a multifamily emergency shelter in 1986. It has grown into a temporary and permanent housing resource for low-income families, adults with mental and physical disabilities and individuals with a history of drug addiction. The Haverhill-based organization provides a temporary place to live, and also facilitates the relocation of families and individuals to affordable permanent locations. Emmaus focuses on revitalizing the lives of its clients and the community by addressing issues with long-term solutions. 

Jeanine Murphy, Emmaus’ executive director, says the long-term solution for homelessness is affordable housing and economic development. Emmaus provides participating individuals with the support system they need to become independent, thriving members of society. 

Cycle for Shelter funds programs such as the Empowerment Project, which helps single caregivers develop the self-esteem, healthy habits and self-sufficiency needed to raise their children.

Left: Hillary Benson, captain of the North Shore Cyclists Team, leads her team from Hampton Beach to Kensington. Photo by Francois Gossieaux. Right: Charlie Monroe and his wife Susan Gleason get ready on the starting line of the 2017 Cycle for Shelter. Photo by Chuck Swierad.

Gretchen Arntz, Emmaus’ director of philanthropy, says donating to this fundraiser is a smart idea for residents of the Merrimack Valley. “Ninety-two cents of every dollar Emmaus raises goes directly into client services,” she says. “The money stays local. We are serving the people of the Merrimack Valley. When you participate in our event, you are keeping your charitable dollars in the community you live in. You can even come to volunteer and see where your money is going.” The funds are critically important. Money raised through Cycle for Shelter can, for example, allow Emmaus’ emergency shelter, Mitch’s Place, to remain open during a snowstorm, when staying on the street would pose grave risks for the homeless.

There is plenty of time to sign up, and it’s easier this year than ever to participate, even if you consider yourself a casual cyclist. Margot Regan, events/marketing and communications manager of Cycle for Shelter, describes the modified route that makes this event a unique experience. “Last year, we changed [the 20-mile route] to a ‘New England Fun Ride,’ ” Regan says. The change meant adding a lot of family-friendly activities along the way. “We stop at Ingaldsby Farm and have cider doughnuts, then travel through Boxford for whoopie pies, and ice cream from Carter’s at the last rest stop,” Regan says. At the end of the ride, participants and supporters were rewarded with food and treats donated by a variety of vendors.

This year, Riverside Cycle will be offering discounts on bike rentals, products and services for participants. Riverside will also be providing bike rentals at the starting line.

For Arnzt, who has managed and overseen this event for 25 years, the best part of the day is the feeling of compassion from the riders who selflessly advocate for others who are struggling in their community. “Most of the people who support us have never been homeless or even have anyone in their life who has been,” Arntz says. “There is nothing in it for them except the sense that they are generating social justice and standing up for other people.”

To sign up for this event as an individual or a team, to  volunteer, or to donate, visit Day-of-race registration is available.            

Emmaus Inc.
Haverhill, Mass.
(978) 241-3400


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