DRUMS — If a parking lot full of tattooed men in black leather and boots outside a place called Death Row Motorcycles doesn’t intimidate you, the roar of a hundred motorcycles probably will.
No, this isn’t the premise of a “Sons of Anarchy” spin-off. It was the scene at the 4-fourth annual UNICO Motorcycle Charity Run, which was held Saturday.
Proceeds were donated to Keystone Wounded Warriors, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit based in the Reading area. The organization helps imperiled Pennsylvania veterans who were wounded on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
In years past, the run has benefited seriously ill individuals. This year’s choice of an organization is a departure from the trend.
“We felt very strongly that the veterans of our community need to be served as well,” said Robin Rimsky, a board member of UNICO’s Hazleton chapter.
She said the event usually attracts close to 100 bikers and raises about $4,000 every year, and this Saturday’s run was on track to do the same.
Mike Maurer, who sits on the Keystone Wounded Warriors Board of Directors, represented the organization at the event selling shirts and accepting donations. He said he joined the organization five years ago, and has watched it grow at a rapid pace.
“In the beginning, we probably helped like six people in six months,” Maurer said. “Now we’re helping like ten people a week.”
He said the nonprofit now pulls in as much as $250,000 a year, around 80 percent of which benefits in-need veterans directly, although aid is not distributed as cash. Instead, Maurer said the the organization makes payments on rent or bills, or provides gift cards for the services required.
“Whatever they need to get out of the hole they’re in,” he said.
Two marines, disenchanted with similar organizations, founded Keystone Wounded Warriors to make sure money donated to veterans went to the right places, he said. Maurer, himself an army veteran, said he works a full-time job making snow-guards, and the nonprofit is his night and weekends job.
Girls in bikinis ran a car wash in the Death Row Motorcycles parking lot and musical acts performed on a flatbed truck-turned-stage throughout the afternoon. Flying Aces Motorcycle Club routed, organized and led the riding portion of the event.
“We’re so fortunate to live in this area because we have so many great roads to ride on,” Rimsky said.
UNICO is an Italian-American service organization. Founded in 1922, it borrows its name from the Italian word meaning “unique.” The name eventually came to be acronym for Unity, Neighborliness, Integrity, Charity and Opportunity.
“Basically, we exist to raise money,” which is then distributed among charities, Rimsky said.
The organization also held a raffle for a motorcycle, valued at $50,000, custom-built by Death Row Motorcycles. Proceeds from the raffle will benefit St. Francis of Assisi Commons, a 30-unit, rental housing project for homless veterans located in Scranton.
Learn more about Keystone Wounded Warriors at www.keystonewarriors.com.