COVID-19 doesn't stop Legion Riders from meeting a critical need

COVID-19 doesn't stop Legion Riders from meeting a critical need

For the previous 11 years American Legion Riders Chapter 20 in Plymouth, Conn., has staged a motorcycle ride to benefit the Plymouth Community Food Pantry. Amidst a pandemic, there was consideration to not conduct the ride this year.

But those thoughts were replaced by a realization for the need to assist the pantry and those using it during the coronavirus.

“At the end of the day, we were like ‘we really need to do this for the town,’” said Connecticut State and Chapter 20 American Legion Riders Director Chris Oberg. "People, I think, need it more than ever.”

Following COVID-19 safety guidelines, Chapter 20 was able to bring 106 motorcyclists in for the late September ride – from surrounding ALR chapters, other motorcyclists and participants from as far away as Pennsylvania. The 90-mile ride through the Litchfield County hills also included a dinner, 50/50 raffle, t-shirt sales and a band – all socially distanced.

The ride normally funds approximately 10 percent of the food pantry’s yearly operating budget, but Oberg said the $4,000 raised this year will almost double that percentage.

“We’re lucky enough that we have a big outdoor area, so we were able to use that area to have everyone come in,” said Oberg, a member of Sons of The American Legion Squadron 20. “I had all my guys wearing masks and gloves while they served the food. You try to do the best you can making everybody feel safe and comfortable in this environment.

“And I think a lot of people have been itching for something to do. I think riding your motorcycle couldn’t give you any more social distancing. This was definitely a banner year.”

With food pantries across the nation under heavy strain due to increased demand during the pandemic, Oberg said it was important for Chapter 20 to continue to provide the local support it has for more than a decade.

“This was definitely important to the community, which is one of the pillars of The American Legion,” Oberg said. “There’s a lot of people in town that we know need (the food pantry), and we’re happy to fill that slot for them. I think everybody knows how much it’s needed.”

Watch video of the ride here.