Keyport, New Jersey to Morgantown, PA
Lancaster, Pa. (IOCC) - Warm welcomes at two Greek Orthodox parishes and a nasty thunderstorm in the heart of Amish Country greeted the cyclists of the "Race to Respond" on Saturday, the first day of their 3,500-mile benefit ride for International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC).
The five volunteer cyclists spent Day 1 riding through quaint New Jersey towns, crossing the Delaware River at Washington Crossing, and taking in the beautiful, rolling countryside of southeastern Pennsylvania.
A thunderstorm hit just as the cyclists approached their destination of Morgantown, Pa., late in the afternoon Aug. 3. They briefly took shelter in a support vehicle before resuming their ride.
The cyclists are riding to raise support and awareness for the people served by IOCC, the official humanitarian aid agency of Orthodox Christians. By volunteering for this 25-day test of endurance, they hope to highlight IOCC's "race" to respond to the needs of people suffering from natural disaster, poverty and war around the world.
The day started in Keyport, N.J., the launching point of the "Race to Respond," and the cyclists took their first break in Princeton, N.J., home of IOCC board member Anne Glynn Mackoul.
Ms. Mackoul expressed support for the cyclists, noting that her brother, Joe, rode a bicycle cross-country, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Brooklyn Bridge, in about 30 days in the late 1980s.
Ms. Mackoul and other IOCC supporters, including parishioners of Mother of God, Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Mission in Rocky Hill, N.J., and their priest, the Rev. John Cassar, greeted the cyclists with signs and cheers as they rolled into town.
The cyclists then continued across the Delaware River and into Pennsylvania. In the community of Jeffersonville, north of Philadelphia, they stopped at St. Sophia, Sts. Faith, Hope and Agape Greek Orthodox Church for a presentation and refreshments.
Parishioners and the Rev. James Pavlow, parish rector, spoke with the cyclists and learned more about IOCC's humanitarian mission.
In the evening, the cycling team attended a reception at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Lancaster, Pa.
"We're totally supportive of what IOCC stands for," said the Rev. Alexander Veronis, parish rector. "This (race) is a good way to introduce the organization and its purpose to people who are unaware of it."
Fr. Alexander noted that the Orthodox Church has always had a twofold calling of preaching the gospel and promoting social outreach. In just 10 years, IOCC has delivered more than $140 million in life-sustaining assistance to people in 21 countries.
After an inspiring day, lead cyclist Jim Angelus said, "The one thing that really inspires us is you, the people who support IOCC."
Day 2 (Sunday), will take the cyclists through Lancaster, York and Chambersburg, Pa. The cycling team is scheduled to attend Divine Liturgy and a reception at St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church in Oberlin/Steelton, Pa., on Sunday morning before resuming their ride through Pennsylvania.
They are expected to reach the Pacific Ocean just north of San Francisco on Aug. 27.