News Story

Mt Gambier Saints Provide Sustenance to Pollie Pedallers

The Mt Gambier Ward (congregation) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) was a vital part of the annual Pollie Pedal fundraiser which took place in late April and early May. 

Feeding 65 cyclists and 25 crew members and special guests, as well as providing spiritual sustenance to them, was an opportunity for the ward to exhibit Christ-like service to those in need.  In the 15 years since its inception, Pollie Pedal has raised over $2.5 million for various Australian charities, including, this year, Carers Australia.

The Church has been a major financial sponsor for the past eight years and, where facilities allow, also prepares some evening meals for the riders who are naturally famished after the gruelling battle against hills and muscle fatigue.

This year, the riders and crew set off on their 1000 km cycle ride from Adelaide on Sunday 28th April and arrived at the finish, in Geelong, Victoria, on Sunday 5th May. 

National Directors of Public Affairs, Stephen and Rosely Webster from Sydney, visited Mt Gambier bishop, Greg Nethercott, Relief Society president, Lisa Maywald, and members of the Mt Gambier ward some months before to plan a full buffet dinner for the riding team. 

The effort was undertaken under the direction of Paul Granger, president of the Adelaide Marion Stake (diocese).

Members of the Ward Young Men and Young Women organisations spent several youth evenings practising and perfecting their hosting and serving skills.  Some ward Relief Society sisters made pumpkin soup and desserts. The Websters provided the buffet main meal. 

Suddenly, just a few minutes before the appointed time, the chapel (Mt Gambier Chapel has a multi-purpose room used for Sunday meetings and other functions) became a buzz of activity as 90 people arrived for dinner.

In addition to the riders and crew, other guests who attended the meal at the Mt Gambier chapel were local government representatives including Grant District mayor, Richard Sage, City of Mt Gambier mayor, Steve Perryman, and Grant Council Chief Executive Officer, Trevor Smart.  Federal and state politicians were also among the participants.

Carers Australia was represented by Communications Manager, Rosemary Spry, and Chief Executive Officer, Ara Cresswell.  Bishop Nethercott and his wife, Kay, personally welcomed everyone to the chapel and hosted the evening.

During his remarks, Bishop Nethercott quoted the scripture, “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (Doctrine & Covenants 58:27).

Stephen Webster said the lasting impression of the evening was of “our Young Men and Women, beautifully presented, happily mixing and mingling with dignitaries and answering their questions.”

Tiri Jai Green, one of the young women, commented, “this evening has been so good.  I didn’t think I could have this much fun.”         

Amongst the Pollie Pedal riders this year were brothers, Alex and Leo Gomez, from New South Wales who enjoyed getting back into cycling 20 years after turning down opportunities to represent Australia at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games in favour of serving full-time missions for the Church.

“We sold our bikes and equipment to help fund our missions,” they said.

After many years away from the sport, Alex was gifted a bike by his wife, Jacqui.  He said, “This is my fourth consecutive Pollie Pedal.  The races have taken me through the Snowy Mountains, the Riverina and many obscure country towns in the eastern states of Australia, and this time through South Australia and on into Victoria.”

The annual charity commitment inevitably involves some ‘juggling’ of roles and priorities for participants.   Leo Gomez serves as a counsellor on Sydney’s Liverpool stake presidency, while Alex is a ward (congregation) Young Men’s leader. 

Justin Coulson, who also rode, is the Macarthur stake Sunday School president. All have full-time jobs from which they needed to take leave to participate in the ride.

Although Pollie Pedal was originally an initiative of federal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, participants include politicians from both sides of politics and it is regarded as a bi-partisan charity event.

According to Justin Coulson, “We don’t even talk politics during the ride.  We talk about lots of things but not politics.  That’s not what this is about. The entire purpose is to raise funds for charity.” 

Last year Pollie Pedal raised $548,000 for Carers Australia while the 2013 fundraising tally is yet to be finalised.

In addition to Pollie Pedal, the Church is involved in many charitable and humanitarian activities on a global basis.

In the last year 57,000 people in 54 countries have received wheel chairs, 1.1 million people in 33 countries have received improved drinking water and sanitation systems, and 51,000 people in 24 countries have received reading glasses or vision treatments.

Since 2003, Church financial contributions and help from 59,000 local Church volunteers have supported Ministries of Health and World Health Organisation campaigns in 35 countries to provide measles immunisations.  As a result of these international efforts, there has been 78% reduction in measles-related deaths worldwide over that period.

Apart from humanitarian donations, individual Church members may voluntarily fast for two consecutive meals on the first Sunday of each month and donate the money they would have spent on food to Church funds for the poor and needy.

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