LAKEWOOD RANCH — As the nation continues to fight through a struggling economy, many local residents have found themselves struggling to make ends meet.
About 8,000 homeless live in Manatee and Sarasota counties, including more than 550 children in Manatee alone. And with unemployment recently topping 11%, more people are now searching for work.
And here’s the rub. To find work, people often require transportation. But many aren’t able to acquire transportation until after they have a job.
“The homeless will receive a bike if they have a job, but a lot of times, you need transportation to get a job — so it’s a little bit like a catch-22,” said Judi DeWalt, owner of Natural Discoveries on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch and St. Armands Circle in Sarasota.
DeWalt is now hoping to help with Tour de Ranch, a communitywide bike ride event designed to assist in the purchase of bicycles for the homeless in Manatee and Sarasota counties. The tour will be held May 16 with 4.3-, 25- and 50-mile rides throughout Lakewood Ranch. The 25- and 50-mile rides will begin at 8 a.m. on Main Street, and the 4.3-mile family ride will follow at 9 a.m.
Registration, which begins one hour prior to the start of each race, is $30 for the 25- and 50-mile rides and $20 for the 4.3-mile ride. Each participant will receive a free T-shirt, a water bottle, a continental breakfast, snacks and lunch at MacAllisters Grill and Tavern. All riders must wear helmets.
Along the route, riders can stop at several Michael Saunders open houses, which have been designated as rest stops.
As a volunteer for the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness’ creative committee, DeWalt is always looking for ways to bring awareness to the plight of the homelessness.
“I hope people become aware of the situation,” DeWalt said. “There is a certain perception that the homeless did something wrong or that there’s something wrong with them. We have to get over that perception and just try to help each other.”
Prior to the Tour de Ranch, the Lakewood Ranch Main Street Merchants Association will host a pre-registration party from 6-9 p.m., May 15. During the free event, guests will enjoy food and drinks, music and a live auction. Eight packages will be available for auction, including Girls Night Out and Summer Vacation packages.
For example, the winner of the Girls Night Out package will receive a limousine ride for herself and five of her girlfriends to The Polo Grill and Bar for drinks before heading over to East Manatee Fire Rescue for dinner. The Summer Vacation package includes four tickets to Walt Disney World’s the Magic Kingdom, among other items.
For more information about the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, visit its Web site at www.suncoastpartnership.com.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].
WHEN: 6-9 p.m., May 15
WHERE: Lakewood Ranch Main Street
CONTACT: Judi DeWalt, 355-0611
Tour de Ranch
WHAT: a community benefit to bring bicycles to the homeless through a partnership with the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness
WHEN: 8 a.m., May 16, 4.3-mile family ride begins at 9 a.m.
WHERE: 4.3-, 25- and 50-mile bike routes through Lakewood Ranch
REGISTRATION: $20 for 4.3-mile ride and $30 for 25- and 50-mile rides