ON APRIL 1, Redmond resident Patricia Hansen will hop on her bicycle and start pedaling east, arriving in Yorktown, Va., three and a half months and 3,576 miles later on July 7, her 70th birthday.
Turning 70 on 7/7 will be a memorable finale to an undertaking she hopes will raise $50,000 for a non-profit she runs to provide healthy food for needy Puget Sound-area families.
Emerald City Lights, Hansen's Seattle-based nonprofit, hosts bike rides and other events to benefit local families in need. The organization has a food program called Our Daily Bread Basket that distributes food boxes containing an array of healthy food, including bean soup mix with a recipe, fresh produce and homemade jam. By relying on donations and business discounts, Hansen can provide four days of mostly organic food for a family of five for only $55.
Once sickly, asthmatic and prone to dizzy spells requiring hospitalization, Hansen’s health problems went away within months after changing to healthier foods. She thinks needy families, many of whom are struggling with serious health problems such as cancer and diabetes, deserve the same.
“I can’t feed families unhealthy food,” she said.
Hansen co-founded Emerald City Lights in 2005 to help address the increasing local hunger problem. As a longtime volunteer with the Seattle Basket Brigade, she had watched the demand for food baskets continually exceed what volunteers could supply.
Her eyes grow moist as she describes the need. “One out of five children go to bed hungry every day, right here in this area,” she says.
Hansen organizes two annual bike and walk events (Emerald City Lights Bike Ride and Cornucopia Days) to raise funds. She and co-founder Bill Leach volunteer their time and rely on additional volunteers to help run the events and distribute the food.
Hansen learns about struggling families from local schools and social service agencies. She then calls each family to arrange a drop-off time.
“You can get all kinds of responses. Some hug you and cry and invite you in for tea. Some barely say thank you," she said. "You have to put yourself in their shoes. It’s not easy to humble yourself to ask for help.”
The important thing, she believes, is to “give from your heart, and never judge.”
IN 2008, Hansen delivered food to the Foster family, whose 10-year old son, Brenden, had leukemia. When she learned that Brenden’s dying wish was to feed the homeless, she organized volunteers to make and distribute 200 sandwiches in Pioneer Square.
“You should have seen the tears,” recounts Hansen, when volunteers told recipients about Brenden’s request and showed them his photo.
Hansen’s non-profit continues to feed the homeless several times a year as well. restaurant in Redmond is one of the businesses that have donated food.
A Seattle-area native, this mother of three and grandmother of five has lived in downtown Redmond for seven years. “I love living here," she says. "You can bike or walk anywhere.”
Hansen has thousand of miles and dozens of long-distance bicycle rides under her pedals, including a year-long around-the-world tour in 2000.
People are often astonished when they find out that Hansen will soon be 70. When asked her secret to staying so young, she says her advice is to “volunteer, and keep moving.”
Hansen is paying for the cross country trip herself. All donations will go directly to feeding families. Click here for more information about sponsoring the ride and following her progress.