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Help Willis Church Provide Showers for Touring Cyclists

Thanks to everyone who so generously donated, Willis Church has their showers up and running! Look for a follow-up story soon.

Cyclists Evin Thompson (left) and Volkher Schlegel rest at a picnic table outside Willis United Methodist Church in eastern Henrico County.

Cyclists Evin Thompson (left) and Volkher Schlegel rest at a picnic table outside Willis United Methodist Church in eastern Henrico County. Richmond Times-Dispatch photo.

Willis Church in Varina is an important hospitality stop on the TransAmerica Trail (USBR 76), a day’s ride from Yorktown.  The Richmond Times-Dispatch tells the story:

The church has opened its doors to cyclists for years, offering a roof and a cool (or warm, depending on the season) place to unroll their sleeping bags. Bikers can sleep in Sunday school rooms or the fellowship hall, cook in the kitchen and enjoy the solitude of the sanctuary. When a couple of large groups passed through this spring, church members prepared a spaghetti dinner for the visitors and listened to stories from the road.

“It’s been a really interesting part of our ministry,” said the Rev. Mark Rooks, the Willis pastor. “We are blessed to be able to serve people, and churches do that in all kinds of ways. We serve these people by offering them hospitality. As a person of faith, you receive a certain amount of blessing from being able to do that.

“It’s not about raising money or trying to get new people to join our church because we’ll never see most of these people again. But that’s what makes it such a good ministry because it’s not about any of that. It’s just about sharing the love of Christ — just being welcoming and open.”

Scores of cyclists stop at Willis every year: young and old, big groups and riders traveling solo. This year, the first rider came through in April, heading west; the final cyclist of 2011, traveling east, arrived in December. The only thing the church asks is that the cyclists sign the guestbook, which is filled with names from faraway places and lots of gratitude.

Willis Church would love to provide showers, but the new facilities would be costly for the small congregation.  So the Virginia Bicycling Federation has kicked off the “shower fund” with a $500 donation. $500 more came from Bike Virginia, and another $300 from RABA. We’re asking cyclists to donate the rest of about $2300 needed.

Please help Willis Church build new showers.  Donate any amount through our donation page, and select “Showers for Willis Church.”

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