NEW BRITAIN - Sporting his Sons of Abraham Motorcycle Ministry vest, Duane LaPierre navigated a crowd of diners at First Lutheran Church last week, serving plates of pasta to about 100 homeless and low-income people.
“I love it here,” said LaPierre of the church’s weekly pasta supper. “It’s very humbling and very moving to be able to serve people.”
LaPierre and his wife, Lisa, a member of the Daughters of Promise Motorcycle Ministry, have become regular volunteers as part of their calling to do good works in the community.
But what started as a way for the motorcycle ministries to give back has blossomed into a full-fledged mission to help homeless people with two of the most basic of human needs: a shower and a place to wash their clothing.
The Sons of Abraham ministry was formed by New Britain resident Charles Burby in 2007 and began handing out clothing to homeless people on Saturday mornings about six months ago at the intersection of Main and Chestnut streets.
As both ministries give to the city’s homeless population, they offer encouragement. But they have also learned that encouragement is a two-way street.
The people receiving the clothes told the ministries about the pasta supper, which has fed people for more than a decade.
Burby, his wife, Cindy - president of the Daughters of Promise - the LaPierres and others began volunteering regularly on Wednesday nights. They recently donated 84 pounds of pasta to weekly dinner.
“It’s sheer happiness,” Lisa LaPierre said of the volunteer work at the church. “You feel fulfilled. It’s nice that they are getting to know us and are opening up to us.”
Through their efforts, the ministries also learned that for the city’s homeless population, finding a place to shower is a challenge.
“The question we asked (when volunteering) was, ‘What do you need?’” Cindy Burby said. “They all say a place to take a shower and feel human again. They want to be able to shower and put on clean clothes.”
So the ministries decided they would try to create a mobile shower and washing machine station that can show up in the city one or two times a week.
“We have to figure out how to pull this off,” Cindy Burby said. “We plan on talking to the mayor so we can tap into city water and talking to businesses to see if they can donate.”
The ministries regularly host bike events, including the April 28 Bike Blessing & Break Out Run starting at the Shriners Hall parking lot at 206 Deming St., Newington, as fundraisers to support their charitable works.
But Charles Burby is well aware that, to this point, they haven’t taken on a project this large. “It’s going to take a miracle,” he admitted.
The group estimates that it would need $15,000 to $20,000 to renovate a bus or a trailer to hold private shower stalls and dressing rooms and a washer and dryer.
Cindy Burby is now looking for ways to get corporations to donate detergent and personal hygiene items and hotels to donate towels. “It’s a huge vision,” Duane LaPierre said. “But there’s a huge need.”
Anyone interested in donating, finding out more about the motorcycle ministries or in attending the April 28 Break Out Run can call Charles Burby at 860-348-7857.