Members of the Gary Owen Motorcycle Club in Waldo County, Maine are your typical bikers: Wearing leather jackets emblazoned with club patches and sporting tattoos that tout their affiliation, they regularly gather to tune up their bikes.
But this isn’t just a gang of motorcycle ruffians. Military veterans formed the club in 2012 with the intention of coming together around their common interest (motorcycles) to help other veterans. “We’re not a 1 percent club or an outlaw club,” the group’s treasurer, Curby Biagiotti, told Christopher Cousins of the Bangor Daily News. “Our primary goal is to help veterans, and that’s it.”
How do they assist former service members? The club started raising funds for veterans by raffling off a handmade quilt and cords of firewood. And the past few cold winters, they’ve supplied propane to the family of a veteran dying of cancer and restocked a military widow’s woodshed. But this year, the club is stepping up its fundraising efforts for its most ambitious project yet: They plan to tear down an old building on seven acres of farmland in Montville, Maine, and build a 24-bed shelter for homeless vets. They hope to get the farm up and running, too, and employ the vets in farm work. Local organic farmers have offered to teach the future residents what they know, and help them sell some of the produce they grow.
“We’re tired of seeing homeless vets. There’s no reason for our veterans to be homeless and we’ve got a lot of them,” club president Alex Allmayer-Beck told Wayne Harvey of WABI TV5. He said he believes veterans “need to be in a place where they have some semblance of stability, where people can treat them like human beings and they can get back into the work force, slowly.”
Currently, the club is raising money to get the project underway, which they anticipate will cost $750,000. They are accepting donations through the Bangor Savings Bank.
When the facility opens its doors, you can bet that motorcycles and tattoos will be welcome.