Motorcycles in Maine
The 3rd annual “Ride for the Red Shield” motorcycle event was scheduled for July this year in Houlton, Maine, but COVID-19 brought those plans to a skidding halt.
Envoy Frank Nataluk of the Houlton Corps knew that a great financial need would come to his community because of the virus, so on Sept. 12, he successfully got the motorcycles revving again.
“I didn’t know what to expect with COVID,” Nataluk said. “This year, we had 11 bikes and 15 people. That was a good show, given COVID.”
Thanks to sponsors and donations, Nataluk said the event raised close to $3,000. Despite generating less money than anticipated, Nataluk said, “I was happy for what we did raise. We thank the community for whatever is raised.”
Nataluk said the proceeds from the ride will go to support the corps soup kitchen and food pantry, as well as to help people with utility assistance. He worries about the future, when the local utility company will be allowed to turn off the power to delinquent clients. Some of them have bills of $2,000 or more during COVID.
“We’re not going to have enough money to help all the people who are going to need to keep their electric on,” he says. “I’m actually nervous about it. Right now, the utility company is not allowed to shut anyone off, but that’s going to change in the near future.”
That’s why Nataluk was insistent on making the ride happen.
Loving God and the open air
The bright, sunny Saturday morning began with coffee, donuts, and fellowship. Nataluk then prayed over and blessed each motorcycle. A police escort led the bikers out to U.S. Route 2 so they could begin their 85-mile ride through picturesque northern Maine. Leading the caravan on the first cycle was Nataluk and his wife, Melissa Nataluk, who are former Salvation Army officers.
Nataluk said the bikers made two stops to pick up Scrabble pieces to use in a Scrabble-Scramble game. The highest score would win a grand prize of gift cards.
Back at the corps after the three–hour ride, everyone enjoyed a barbeque, door prizes, and various awards for the motorcycles.
Nataluk said he took part in a similar motorcycle ride and divisional fundraiser while stationed in Flemington, N.J. That event drew 75 bikers. He liked the concept.
“The idea was already put together,” he said. “I just ran with it and tweaked a few things in my next appointment.”
Nataluk continued the ride for the five years he and his wife were officers in Rochester, N.H., and the three years he has been in Houlton.
“I actually lead the ride,” Nataluk said. “One year in New Hampshire, I had as many as 30 bikes following me and that was really cool.”
Nataluk rides a 2006 Suzuki Boulevard C90T that has a police cruiser windshield and saddlebags.
“I love riding. I never get to ride enough,” he said. “It’s relaxing to go on a nice ride. I love stopping somewhere to eat. The camaraderie we create with other bikers is enjoyable. We might live other kinds of lives, but we have that in common—that we enjoy the open air and riding a machine.”
Nataluk proudly wears a patch on his riding vest that reads “The Salvation Army Motorcycle Ministry.” He is a member of TSAMM, which has colleagues all over the USA Eastern Territory and the world.
“The purpose of this organization is not just riding,” he said. “The purpose is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. We don’t patch members just because they like to ride the bikes with us. We patch them if they’re a believer in Jesus Christ and if they want to evangelize and share their faith with people wherever they go on their bike.
“There are no quotas on how many people we have to lead to the Lord each year. The idea is to enjoy our bikes, but also to remember that the salvation of the lost is the most important thing.”
by Robert Mitchell
Anyone who wants to hold an event can email Envoy Frank Nataluk at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-207-532-2322. “I think it has the potential to raise quite a bit of money each year,” he said. “It gives you an opportunity to go knock on the doors of businesses where you wouldn’t normally knock.”