EUGENE — You've got to figure Jesus would appreciate this whole deal: Homeless families getting some of their needs met by a sketchy-looking group of bikers — long-haired, leather-clad, smoking cigarettes and riding rumbling Harleys down Highway 99 on a sunny Saturday morning in late November.
Not your stereotypical do-gooder types.
But take a closer look at their leather jackets and their logo belies their appearance. These are Cruizers for Christ, an Oregon-based motorcycle fellowship that knows its Bible stories.
They may look a little rough around the edges, but for more than a decade they've made an annual holiday pilgrimage of sorts to ShelterCare's Family Housing Program. The bikers come bearing gifts for the 26 homeless families finding respite from the streets at the shelter.
For the children there are snuggly stuffed animals, art supplies and a bright assortment of toys for both girls and boys. For the adults, there are hats, mittens, socks and a beautiful collection of warm hand-made scarves. The families also receive a colorful Christmas stocking containing candy and a small copy of the New Testament.
"This is like our family," said Deborah Bodam, a member of Cruizers for Christ who helps organize the event each year. "The children love the motorcycles."
Bodam carefully orchestrates the giving so that it doesn't become a scramble for stuff.
Instead, parents are escorted one at a time into the room where the clothing and gifts have been neatly arranged so they can choose the most appropriate items for their families, Bodam said.
They get to go "shopping," without the pressure of little ones who often get overexcited when they see all the toys, Bodam said. "This way, the parents get a little solitude and a little privacy to make a choice."
For Clifton Barker, a Eugene resident who has been riding for years with Cruizers for Christ, there's a biblical passage that resonates and keeps him coming back.
It's from Matthew — that section where Jesus reminds people that taking care of others, especially the least well-off among us, is about as profound an act of worship as there is.
Barker puts it this way: "Any time you serve a need, you're fulfilling God's purpose," he said.
Dan Kammerzelt, another fellowship member, came to help with the gifts, even though a brain aneurism meant he had to come in a car rather than on his Harley.
"Most people are two paychecks away from being homeless," Kammerzelt said. "These are people that just fell through the cracks and need a little help."
For Carmen Webster and Daniel Loshbaugh, who recently lost their housing when medical problems put Webster in the hospital, the gifts are a wonderful addition to the safety of the shelter.
"This place is amazing," Webster said as she held her daughter Destiny and stood beside Loshbaugh, her husband. "And this," she said as she gestured toward the room with the gifts, "it's a real blessing."