VENICE — A little-known group of female bikers raises money and helps in the community.
The 10 members of the Widow Sons Masonic Riding Association Crusaders are from Englewood and Venice. They have monthly meeting and discuss the needs in both communities.
Last year, they decided they wanted to help Our Mother’s House in Venice.
“We raised money by selling T-shirts, doing raffles and 50/50 drawings at the winter rendezvous in Venice in November,” said member Kitty Stanford. “We wanted to help a charity in Venice that involved both mothers and children. We found that Our Mother’s House was a good fit.”
Most of the members gathered recently at Our Mother’s House in Venice and unloaded cases of diapers, wipes and other supplies for moms. While there, they took a quick tour and learned more about the non-profit, non-denominational residential housing program on the island. The two-year program offered by Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. provides single mothers and their young children a safe and secure environment to achieve self-sufficiency.
“During their stay, mothers 18 and up to their 40s learn budgeting, parenting skills, discipline techniques, nutrition, cooking classes, life skills said Rita Millner, one of three case workers at Our Mother’s House. “We work with Habitat for Humanity. We’ve also had the women work with Pit Stop (auto repair shop) in Venice to help them with basic car maintenance.”
Mothers participate in a six-week nutrition class which teaches them to read and understand labels, what’s healthy and do hands-on cooking.
“We work with the moms through the financial university,” she said. “We work with a child psychologist to help the moms understand child development.”
The Children First program runs an Early Head Start for children on-site at Our Mother’s House. The teachers and volunteers help ensure the children are cared for while their mothers are at school, college or work.
There are 22 apartments at Our Mother’s House, most often they are occupied and there’s a waiting list.
“We encourage the mom to start looking at about the year and a half mark,” Millner said. “If they find a reasonable rent somewhere, they will take it before the two years is up. It’s been really hard to find affordable rents and housing in Sarasota County.”
Out Mother’s House operates through donations.
“We really appreciate the diapers donated by the Widows Sons Crusaders,” she said. “Diapers aren’t covered by food stamps. They are expensive. These moms are saving so that they will be able to afford their rent and security deposits. These type of donations go a long way.”
The Widows Sons Crusaders Chapter Masonic Riders also donate to the Shriner’s Hospital, local disabled veterans. The Widows Sons was founded in 1998 with intention to offer aid and assistance to Masonic Widows and Orphans. The Widows Sons offers regular charitable donations to Masonic and other charities to help benefit many people throughout the world.
The Widows Sons is open to Master Masons in good standing with their respective Grand Lodges who own and ride a motorcycle of 500cc or more, according to the group’s website.
“We are a small but mighty group,” Stanford said. “We do what we can to help. The Masonic Riders is a world wide group that started in Florida. Our chapter is smaller than a lot of them, but we still like to do our part for the community.”
The group meets monthly at 91 S. Auburn Road, Venice.