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A new ride for new cause: Group will help promote Habitat for humanity with mortorcycle fundraiser

MOLLY MIRON | SPECIAL TO THE PIONEER From left, Mark Peterson, Cathy Lehto and Northwoods Habitat for Humanity executive director Geri Hickerson look over Peterson's Harley Davidson.

BEMIDJI -- As Cathy Lehto toured the North Country last month during the motorcycle Ride to Prevent Suicide, an idea came to her for a new fundraiser.

A Habitat for Humanity ReStore volunteer, Lehto is collaborating with Mark Peterson of the North Star ABATE to launch a "Ride for Habitat." "I thought, you know what; let's combine the two," she said.

The tentative date for the ride is the second Sunday in June 2014. Bikers will pay a $25 Habitat donation to register for the ride and an additional $10 for a passenger. The riders will start from the Eagles Aerie in Bemidji and travel through Bagley to view the Habitat house there. Next will be stops in Clearbrook and Funkley and a drive-by of the Habitat house in Blackduck before returning to Bemidji.

"It's about 150 miles," Lehto said of the route. "It's a new project. I just want to bring awareness about Habitat for Humanity and ABATE."

She said she hopes members of the communities on the route will come out to watch the motorcycle procession and make donations to Habitat. She said often motorists on the roads perpendicular to the motorcycle parade will sit and watch as well and not try to interrupt the flow.

Peterson said everyone knows about the Ride for the Troops, but Ride for Habitat is a new concept.

Geri Hickerson, Northwoods Habitat for Humanity executive director, said she has discussed the plan with the local board. "They said, 'Go for it,'" she said.

Northwoods Habitat has built 38 new houses and rehabilitated four others since the nonprofit was organized in Bemidji in 1990. Now, the volunteers have built homes in other area towns.

A house built with volunteer labor costs about $112,000, Hickerson said. Habitat International provides a 45-year, zero interest mortgage to the homeowners.

Lehto and Peterson said a ride requires plenty of logistical planning. Those seeking more information about the event should call Hickerson at 751-4649 or Peterson at 766-0913.

"I just want everybody to be safe and enjoy their ride," Lehto said.