A motorcycle ride becomes more than just a fundraiser for a destroyed church

RAVENNA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Every Sunday, Tom Linacre finds himself in a place he calls home: his fellowship and food routine. He rides his Harley from his home in Muskegon to the Ravenna Pub.

“It’s a great place. It’s a great family environment, very comfortable, and that’s why I love coming here,” Linacre said.

As he sat there on a Sunday in April, enjoying his usual two hot dogs and a Natty Light, he thought of the Fire who had torn apart the first reformed church in Ravenna a week before.

“They have nowhere to go. It’s impossible to go to another church and feel as comfortable as in your own church,” Linacre said.

Nearly 20 fire departments responded to the blaze on the afternoon of April 2 which burned the following morning. The smoke from it filled the whole town. It was a resounding reminder of the loss, but there were signs of hope – the church cross still awake.

At that time, in his bar, Linacre says he had an epiphany over a cold: combining two of his loves, his Harley and Ravenna Pub, to raise money for the church.

“We have started reaching out outside the community for additional help and it’s just amazing how many people are willing to step up and help a community and a church they don’t attend. “said Linacre. “I don’t go to church. I had no vested interest in doing this other than trying to help others.

Tom Linacre rests on a Harley motorcycle outside the fence of Ravenna’s First Reformed Church.

Linacre asked longtime Ravenna Pub employee Ann Marshall if the pub would be interested in organizing a fundraiser for the church. Managers were quick to come on board.

Marshall said she contacted food distributors and other vendors who started donating food and equipment.

“We have a very tight-knit community. When things go wrong, we all step in and help each other out,” Marshall said. “And we thought that would be a great way to be able to help the community.”

Together, the two imagined the Ride to Rebuild and the Ravenna Strong Day. The Ride to Rebuild will be a nearly 20-mile motorcycle ride from harley davidson hot rod in Muskegon at the Ravenna Pub. Linacre says registration begins at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 21, with the ride departing at noon sharp. It’s $20 per vehicle and the organizers invite two- or four-wheelers from any community to join.

“A group race for a cause, I mean, it’s a great feeling,” Linacre said. “You look around and everyone is here for the same reason. We are all here to help you. And it gives you a great feeling in your heart.

Once the ride reaches the pub, everyone is welcome to stay and eat, drink and enjoy the four bands and DJs scheduled to entertain, plus a 50/50 draw. The pub has decided that 100% of the day’s proceeds, including entry fees and any other donations made, will go directly to the church.

“It’s so important to this church. They need the money,” said Ravenna Pub owner Paulette DeYoung. “We will earn our money every day. We earn money every day. So that day, we’re not going to make any money. And we are going to organize this huge event for a good cause.

DeYoung says it’s the type of community Ravenna is, it’s the type of bar she runs, and it’s an act of love for a church that means so much to so many.

“Pastor Steve, he (conducted the funeral of) someone very dear to me…” DeYoung said of church pastor Steve VanderWoude. “I have always had this affection for him and his kindness that he gives to the community. Because I am also not a member of this church, yet I turned to him when I needed someone to help me in times of need. And he was there and he was wonderful and I always wanted to give back to him and to this church.

VanderWoude will be in a sidecar of the lead bike for the ride. He is overwhelmed with support.

“The week after the fire I get a call from this guy Tom and I have no idea who Tom is and he’s like, ‘Can we have a fundraiser? You know, we’d like to go for a ride and raise funds for the church,” VanderWoude recalled.

First Reformed Church pastor Steve VanderWoude stands inside the remains of the destroyed church.

VanderWoude said he could see the similarities between what happens on Saturday and what his church does each week. A gathering of fellowship and sharing of bread – a congregation of community to celebrate and support each other.

“As we go through the process of grieving and healing the loss, as we rebuild, I truly believe we’re not rebuilding a building, we’re rebuilding a community,” VanderWoude said. “What is the church? Over the next two years, we as a church are going to have to rethink that. I think rediscovering that, you know, we’re incredibly blessed with the love in this community and the outpouring of that love.

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Jerry B. Hatch