Motorcycle group runs charity for underprivileged children

Nov. 04, 2013 @ 10:30 AM

 The Shiloh Riders are not your stereotypical bikers. They’re a motorcycle group, not a club, made up of ordinary people—bankers, lawyers, police officers, military members and retired people—and they are not the sort of grisly characters you might see portrayed on TV.

Members emphasize the difference between a motorcycle group and a motorcycle club, because of the negative connotation associated with the latter. This group of bikers is no collection of renegade outlaws. In fact, every year they run a charity for underprivileged children, the East Tennessee Toy Run, so those children can receive toys and clothes for Christmas.

A few of the members set up in front of the King Family Library on Saturday morning to take signups for families in need. The one person who immediately grabs your attention is “Santa,” or Jim White, who has been with the group for more than a decade.

White is decked out with the perfect blend of biker and Santa, sporting a red Santa shirt and denim jeans to go with his large, white beard.

“We’re not mean, nasty bikers—some of our members don’t even ride,” White said. “We’re a genuinely good group of people.”

White said that the group puts him in charge of doing all the talking, because he can be “a little bit of a gab.” He speaks with equal enthusiasm about the group, the charity and even ordinary events in his life.

White can recount specific memories of people who the group has helped in the past with ease, occasionally squinting his eyes and looking up for a second to get exact details straight. One memory in particular caused him to take a moment to sigh and furrow his brow.

“We once helped two brothers after their mother passed away,” White said. “They were living in a motel and still going to school.”

The gifts for children vary by age group. For younger children, White said the group provides a large toy and perhaps a smaller toy, as well as clothes, which White believes is the most important part.

“Toys are great, kids love them,” White said. “But toys can wear out or break or a kid might lose interest in it. With clothes, you might do something bigger—maybe you can help a kid’s self-esteem.”

For older children and teens, it’s clothes and hygiene products, because White said he believes that having better access to proper hygiene products can completely change the demeanor of a teenager.

With children 2-years old and younger, the group gives diapers as a gift.

“It’s a tremendous expense for parents, and something that really helps out,” White said.

The group typically gives children one outfit and some sort of hooded sweatshirt or coat, and they like to give more if possible, such as a pair of gloves.

“We want to keep these kids warm,” White said.

The Shiloh Riders make a point to individually give gifts to children, and to make the gifts as personalized as possible.

“We ask them what they like, what their favorite color is,” White said. “We don’t just grab a big pile of gifts and give them out randomly.”

White said that 97 or 98 cents on every dollar donated to their cause goes directly to the children.

“Our members, we do this on our own,” White said. “We aren’t compensated, we don’t have salaries.”

White said his need to help children in need stems from his own childhood.

“I first moved out on my own when I was 13, and I never looked back,” White said. “That’s where my passion comes from. When I help people, I know it’s not easy on them.”

When the Shiloh Riders first started, their founding member lived on Shiloh Road, which led to the naming of the group. However, in the years since, White said, they have maintained the name for a different reason.

“Not many people know what Shiloh means,” White said. “In the bible, ‘Shiloh’ is referred to as a gift from God. We really try to be the meaning of that word.”

The Shiloh Riders will also be accepting applications for assistance next week at the library from any family in need. More information on the motorcycle group, and all of their charitable endeavors, can be found on their website www.shilohriders.com.