Cycling For Good - Damon Elmore
Sometimes you can just instantly tell when someone is genuine and out there doing good things for humanity. Damon Elmore is one of those people. Damon came onto our radar a few years back and we've been fans ever since. We finally got the chance to speak to him personally last week to find out more about his Cycling For Good initiative. We thank Damon for being a positive light and using cycling as a platform to do good and give back. We plan to pitch in however we can to spread the good work and hope that this piece will resonate with others to do the same. Below are Damon's words about Cycling For Good. Please read on. Thank you!
"At its core, Cycling for Good is about helping people any way you can. When we set out on this journey four (4) years ago, the key elements of the adventure were to pass out simple items, learn names, and do it by bike. None of those parts are uniquely original or complicated. In fact, we have since learned of remarkable ways others are making a difference in their communities. But for us, and in support of the men and women deemed homeless and often overlooked by the rest of the world living in the in the City of Atlanta, we have accepted our role and responsibility to participate in a new humanity.
The bike is the backbone of the initiative for several reasons. In many countries, the bike is more than an alternative form of transportation. It represents a sense of freedom, self-sufficiency and independence. That symbolism is not lost on us. But, more than that, we bike because we pass men and women labeled as homeless every single day; on our commutes, in our fancy cycling gear chasing KOMs, running errands, no matter the occasion. Cycling is a passion of ours and like every other observation we make in our cities while riding, we see those faces more distinctly, and take in their circumstances more directly. So why wouldn’t we bike?
The heart of the initiative is made manifest in the form of healthy snacks or fruit, along with small/travel sized personal care items, water, socks or anything else participants believe would make a difference. In one sense, these items are inherently valuable to the people we meet. These things provide sustenance and comfort. Through the initiative we have learned that the Vitamin C from the citrus helps prevent scurvy. We didn’t know that was still a thing! We have learned that clean socks are vital or, “more valuable than gold”, as Tracy Morgan’s character would say on The Last O.G.. Fresh socks provide warmth and protect from the elements. But they are also pivotal in fighting infection and disease. We are often amazed at how items like tuna pouches or some form of potted meat seems cheap and of little value (not to mention full of sodium and other preservatives). But, to many others, they are portable, and protein packed gifts, as if the Maggi delivered them themselves. For many, they are moments of comfort, solace and peace. Here, and as we retell these stories, it sounds so obvious. I understand. But if we are truly honest, these are things we too often take for granted and overlook. That does not make us bad or indifferent. We have learned, however, that it does make us more responsible.
In a greater sense, we have also come to learn that these items are more a vessel to show how we have not fallen deaf to the circumstances these men and women have become a part of. They are springboards for conversation and discussion. Over the years, school aged children have collected items and put together packs that contained messages of inspiration and support. We have had churches and places of worship gather their congregations together to assemble blessing bags. Corporate partners have donated items and resource support as part of community days of giving. Professional and trade associations have collected items to donate and, as a result, raise awareness on the issues of housing affordability, mental health, support and treatment for veterans, family matters and income disparity. We have evolved the manner of giving with sustainable and environmentally conscious packaging and products. All of this, within 4 years, one time per month, and over the course of 3 hours. I think these gifts would easily provide the base of a mission for the initiative, if we had one. The aim has always been to help any way we can. But if you sit down and really think about it, as we often do after each ride, we are trying to restore dignity and help rebuild lives.
All of that is a backdrop, as the soul of cycling for good lies in the 3rd essential element – having a conversation with the people we meet. WE. LEARN. NAMES. We have fun engaging with people that were sports stars, crippled by addiction. We love laughing with couples that believe they are gospel stars and break out in loud and lengthy songs. We may make nicknames (Papa Smurf, Trump, Wheelie, Chimichanga, etc.) We sip tea and take advice on matters of money, love, toxic friendships and trust. We are made better, too. At the end of the day, as we learn these names and hear stories, we see clearly that many of these men and women are exactly like us.
We are most fulfilled when we see instances of success for people we have grown to befriend year over year. Real success stories like jobs or authorization for transitional housing. The success stories have been families reunited and relationships mended. The success stories have been approval for treatment or placement in recovery and addiction programs. We have done nothing to make those stories a reality. But, we feel like we have been a part nonetheless.
So there you have it. The story of an idea, about a guy, with a bike and a basket, and some cuties and bananas, that was hatched at the work bench of a bike shop in the Grant Park area of Atlanta. It is a story that is, at the same time, really that simple AND really that big. Do not get confused, it is not a religious story. But the work we do is designed to announce the living gospel of our lives. You can follow the story via Facebook (@CyclingForGoodAtlanta) or Instagram and (sometimes) Twitter (both @cycling_4_good). More important than all that, we invite everyone interested in helping or being a part of the story to come with us on a ride one Sunday. The time and location is the same as it was in July 2015 – last Sunday of every month at the Loose Nuts Cycles in the Grant Park area of Atlanta. Wheels roll at noon…sharp! Or, maybe you can determine the way you can help on your bike and in your community. Any way you can."