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Like many good ideas, Jim Vail’s participation in MO-Hab Riders began with a presentation from his pastor and an elbow in the ribs from his wife. About 20 years ago, Vail was listening to a presentation from his then associate pastor who said he was going to ride his bike across the state to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity, a cause that his church Manchester UMC supports. Vail’s wife nudged him saying that their pastor really shouldn’t do that alone. So, Vail spoke with the associate pastor, got himself a bike, and a few months later the associate pastor, Vail, and a handful of others biked from St. Charles to Kansas City. And the MO-Hab Riders were born.
Every June nearly 40 riders, including 81-year-old Vail, and a support crew will set out to ride 250 miles in five days from Pontiac, Illinois, to St. Louis, Missouri, with the goal of raising $25,000 for Habitat for Humanity. This is a well-oiled machine with volunteers responsible for everything from arranging housing, providing refreshments, mapping out the route, and making sure anything else the bikers may need is taken care of.
“In the 20 years we’ve been doing this ride there have been lots of modifications and tweaks to make it a success,” explained Vail, who lives with his wife at Meramec Bluffs, a Lutheran Senior Services Life Plan Community. “The comradery of the people in this group is significant.”
So is the dedication. The MO-Hab Riders begin formal training in March with weekend rides starting at 10 miles, building up to the 50 miles that they will eventually be doing for five days in a row.
“Riding each weekend is not enough. I’m over 81 and it’s necessary to spend time in the gym to build up physical strength,” added Vail. “I’ve been working out at the Meramec Bluffs fitness center ever since we moved in, it’s important to stay in condition. It needs to be a way of life.”
Manchester UMC has long supported Habitat for Humanity in St. Louis, through donations of time and finances. The MO-Hab Riders fundraising ride is just one way the church is able to support the organization, which works with families living in substandard rental housing with the opportunity to help build and then purchase a home they can afford to maintain.
“I went into teaching because I enjoy helping others,” Vail explained of why he stays involved with MO-Hab Riders. “That’s one reason I do this. It’s a very rewarding experience and I really enjoy doing it.”