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Spin-a-Thon raises funds for veterans

Jan. 19, 2013 @ 10:54 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Saturday was a good day to ride a spinning bike and help a veteran at the Marshall University Recreation Center.

Homeless Veterans Ride 2013, which consists of a group of Tri-State cyclists, had about 20 people participating at the group's initial fundraiser of the year. Participants paid $20 per hour to participate in the Spin-a-Thon. The group raised more than $28,000 for homeless veterans last year and have several events scheduled this year, said Bill Hill, a Huntington resident who has helped organize the event for the past three years.

"It's a way of giving back and supporting these people," Hill said Saturday morning. "Without volunteers like us, the veterans will be shortchanged. We feel we're doing something important to help. We had tremendous support from the community last year."

Members of the cycling group participated in a six-day, 450-mile bicycle ride from Huntington to Washington, D.C., last year to raise awareness and money for homeless veterans. A similar ride is planned in June, Hill said.

Huntington resident Clyde Maynard, currently on active duty with the Army National Guard, was among those participating in the fundraiser.

"This is the first time I've participated," Maynard said. "It's a great cause. I mostly donate to the Wounded Warriors program."

Money the volunteers collect goes to the Homeless Veterans Resource Center at 624 9th St., Huntington. The center has helped about 120 veterans in the past three years get off the streets and into housing.

"We see 20 new people coming through the door each month," said LeeAnn Bills, center coordinator. The annual count of homeless in the Huntington and Charleston areas is set for Jan. 24, Bills said.

Only about 10 to 15 percent of the homeless population are veterans, she said.

The center relies on donations from the community since the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn't include funding to buy items that help a veteran transform a house into a home, Hill said.

Money the volunteers raised last year went for things like transportation, household items, air mattresses, prescription co-pays, clothing, sheets and groceries, among other items, he said.

The cyclists also are planning a time trial in downtown Huntington on May 5. Early registration for the event is $25 and ends March 1. Participants will receive a T-shirt and water bottle. Registration and more information is available at www.active.com/cycling/huntington-wv/time-trial-for-homeless-veterans-resource-center-2013.

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