“Ride to Provide” helps raise funds for local and global service projects

By Chris Shores

EDITOR’S NOTE: To watch the video that accompanies this written piece, please go here: http://massdailycollegian.com/2009/09/14/video-ride-to-provide/

At this year’s third annual Ride to Provide, over 85 participants rode their bikes a combined 1200 miles in an effort to raise funds for the University of Massachusetts Hillel House, a Jewish community on campus.

“The purpose of this fundraiser is to support the community service programs and the environmentally-friendly projects of Hillel,” said Rabbi Saul Perlmutter, executive director of Hillel House and one of the four co-chairs of the event. These programs include both local efforts and large alternative spring break trips.

Perlmutter said that UMass ranked fourth out of over 500 Hillel Houses in total number of students sent on alternative spring breaks last year when it sent students to Israel, Nicaragua and New Orleans.

Since the top three schools have very large Jewish populations, UMass has the highest per capita total, he said.

Riders departed from the Hillel House at staggered times throughout the morning. Participants could choose between three loops of nine, 18 and 36 miles. Upon finishing their routes, riders were treated to refreshments at the Hillel House.

Perlmutter gave the opening remarks and then handed off the microphone to a variety of speakers. On hand to greet and thank the group for their contributions were Chancellor Robert Holub, State Representative Ellen Story and State Senator Stan Rosenberg.

“With each passing generation, the world is getting smaller and smaller,” said Senator Rosenberg. “It’s important to help your neighbors here but it’s also important to remember and recognize that we’re all part of one world family. People in other places need our help and need our attention.”

Representative Story praised the group, calling the event a “win-win-win.”

Students participated in a healthy activity, avoided “leaving a carbon footprint,” and simultaneously helped others in need.

Chancellor Holub also thanked the contributors by referring to a speech he gave last week.

“One of the things I said when I welcomed the new first year class and one of the reasons I’m most impressed about this [event] is that there is so much participation from the students of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. What I told [the students] last week is that one of the points of UMass pride is giving back. You are already giving back to your community and giving back to the entire world and I think that is a great point of pride for you and for us at UMass,” he said.

Perlmutter then allowed three students who took part in alternative spring break programs last year to share their experiences.

Hannah Moverman traveled with a group to New Orleans to help rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Originally dismayed that she would only be working on a picket fence, she soon realized that her group was “really doing something great.” Through working on the project, she formed a bond with the other members of her group and felt a real sense of community with UMass and the Hillel House.

Ben Lichtman spent his break in Israel. His team worked to beautify a  community destroyed by rockets. During afternoons, his group was able to spend time with residents, talk and form a connection with them. Lichtman was so touched by the experience that he continued to raise funds upon his return to the United States. The group has been invited to return to Israel this year.

Event co-chair and Hillel House development director Courtney Pupkin said that this year’s ride was forced to be early in September due to the upcoming Jewish holidays. She said that the early date may have reduced attendance slightly, but it was still a “great turnout” with more volunteers and individual donors than ever.

In addition to Perlmutter and Pupkin, Craig Kannel and Ted Diamond served as co-chairs for the Ride to Provide.

Amy Trombley, Adam Gorlovsky-Schepp and Gary Kaufman were this year’s top fundraisers. They were rewarded with Ride to Provide baseball caps.

Chris Shores can be reached at [email protected]