TRAVERSE CITY — Cranksgiving started in New York in 1999 and now boasts more than 100 events across the nation.
Norte Executive Director Ty Schmidt brought the food drive to Traverse City for the first time last year, but he said local participation exceeded expectations.
“I always thought it would work well in Traverse City because we have five or six grocery stores that are bikeable,” Schmidt said. “We had a phenomenal turnout last year and a truckload of food. We had about 100 people, but I’d love to double that this year.”
Schmidt said cyclists receive a list of needs, ride a few miles to stores like Tom’s Food Markets or Family Fare, purchase the items and return to the starting point to drop off their donations. People of all ages and abilities are welcome to join.
Admission is free, but Schmidt said riders should spend at least $25 on food and personal hygiene products. He added that they are encouraged to complete a “random act of kindness,” which could mean helping someone with their groceries or picking up litter along the route.
“We’re out there supporting the community,” he said. “It’s a fun family thing to do.”
Erica O’Hearn, her husband and two boys, now ages 2 and 8, participated during last year’s Cranksgiving.
O’Hearn said she thinks they shopped for the Father Fred Foundation at Oryana and one other grocery store, riding about 4 miles.
This was convenient for the family, who lives within biking distance in Traverse City, but O’Hearn said it also provided a teaching opportunity.
“It was fun to have our 7-year-old participate and be helpful and giving around this time of the year,” she said. “We wanted to show him how not everyone is as fortunate as we are and make a tradition that they remember.”
She said her sons enjoyed seeing other kids at the stores and the smiling employees who seemed to know what they were doing. Plus, her eldest took some money out of his piggy bank so he could select and buy a few items.
“Everyone was there to help out,” O’Hearn said. “It was a cold day, but it’s something healthy and charitable.”
Food Rescue of Northwest Michigan delivers the collected items to area pantries and organizations, which then distribute to folks in need.
Schmidt said Norte is partnering with 12 groups this year, including churches and schools.
Father Fred Foundation Advancement Manager Elaine Keaton said almost 10,000 families visited the food pantry in the last year.
Keaton said it is events like Cranksgiving that help keep their shelves full.
“We are fortunate to have a generous community,” she said. “We couldn’t exist without our volunteers and donors.”
Keaton added that their pantry contains staples like rice and beans, fresh breads, fresh produce, low-sugar foods and other healthy items — aligning with Norte’s mission of promoting healthy lifestyles.
Step Up Northern Michigan, another nonprofit, works with at-risk youth in Traverse City. President Cathy O’Connor said they mainly serve Traverse City High School and Central High School.
They are currently working to put together holiday baskets for the students. O’Connor said food collected during Cranksgiving will help with that.
“We put together about 50 Thanksgiving baskets for those families, based on need,” she said. “Depending on what we get from their drive, we can add on families. We are very thankful they chose us again.”
O’Connor added that they received enough food from last year’s Cranksgiving to provide about a dozen extra baskets for local families.
Individuals and families can meet at noon Nov. 24 at the Norte Wheelhouse. Bring a bicycle and something to hold groceries. Advanced registration is preferred, but people may sign up at the event.
“We had a phenomenal turnout last year and a truck load of food. We had about 100 people, but I’d love to double that this year.” Norte Executive Director Ty Schmidt