By Dan Linehan
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — The School Sisters of Notre Dame aren’t known for their athletic prowess, but it takes more than a few stationary bikes to keep them away from a good cause.
“It’s been great, just a gift for us,” Sister Mary Ray Gosch said of Saturday’s Pedal Past Poverty fundraiser.
And there were gifts to go around; Partners for Affordable Housing raised more than $68,700 to help operate Theresa House and Welcome Inn, emergency shelters for women, children and their families.
Of that total, more than $22,000 came from the sisters and staff atop Good Counsel Hill.
“It was heart-warming, really,” said Barb Connolly, secretary to campus administration. “It brought tears to our eyes.”
Sister Gosch said the convent’s interest in helping women, children and the poor motivated their fundraising efforts. Theresa House was operated by St. Peter and Paul’s Catholic Church and housed on the parish campus until 2009. It was named both for Mother Teresa of Calcutta and for the founder of the Mankato convent, Theresa Gerhardinger.
The scene of the event, held in a YMCA third-floor studio, was organized chaos. Thirty-eight bicyclists, mostly accompanied by cheering team members, pedaled to upbeat pop music. Each team had 10 people, each of whom drove in a 20-minute “heat.”
Each person was asked to raise donations of $100, but it was only that — a request.
Some, like the sisters, took a more leisurely pace, but others were clearly in a competitive mood. The cities of Mankato and North Mankato were among them, and Mankato Mayor Eric Anderson and North Mankato Mayor Mark Dehen took up a friendly rivalry. It was not clear Saturday which city’s team pedaled the most miles.
The teams that pedaled furthest were notified, though, and got prizes. On the stationary bikes (different from the spinning bikes) the winners were The Mat Hatters, who spun the equivalent of 43.85 miles.
It was organized by Roberta Ganske, who knew after hearing the nonprofit’s director speak at her church that her bike-loving sons would help anchor a team.
The bikes were borrowed from South Central College and Minnesota State University, hauled at no cost by a moving company owned by Partners for Affordable Housing Board President Mark Piepho.
Virtually everything at the event was donated. That included the food as well as volunteers from Elevate, a Mankato non-denominational Christian church that has “adopted” the nonprofit.
The event also brought much-needed name recognition to the nonprofit, CEO Carrol Meyers-Dobler said.
She views her role as stabilizing the nonprofit financially and preparing it for a capital campaign to fund a new shelter.
But when she took over at Partners for Affordable Housing last year, she learned that not many people knew about their work. Even the mention of Theresa House only brought a “glimmer” of recognition.
To raise enough money for a shelter, they need more than a glimmer.
“You have to groom your donors,” she said.
Meyers-Dobler said the event is already scheduled for a repeat during the first week of March next year. The Y will likely host again, though probably in a larger gym.