Motorcycle club demonstrates compassion
in the Bronx

Story by John Iwasaki
Photos by Tim Reeve

For Bronx native Rafael Pizarro, "Making small changes matter." That’s the motto of Afterdark Ryders, a motorcycle club and nonprofit organization he founded to change lives in his New York community.

Afterdark Ryders, a motorcycle club, collect donations of diapers and other items outside World Vision's Bronx warehouse.

Starting in 2008 when the group gave out 350 frozen turkeys with trimmings at Thanksgiving, Afterdark Ryders has gathered donations of food, toys for Christmas, schools supplies, and other items for schools, churches, and community organizations in the Bronx to distribute to children and families in need.

Afterdark Ryders worked directly with World Vision for the first time in April. Members—some wearing vests with the club’s logo on the back—collected 16 boxes of diapers, wipes, toothpaste, and other personal care items for the Bronx warehouse of World Vision’s U.S. Programs.

"More than just a club, we are a strong, supportive family," says Rafael, president of the group, which also includes an auto club and social club. The organization began with 10 members and now has 25 men and women participating, including sanitation and construction workers and security guards.

The group "loves helping the homeless and the less fortunate every chance we can. Afterdark Ryders is based on the presumption that all people are created equal," Rafael says in his rapid-fire Bronx accent, adding that those undergoing hard times "deserve compassion, empathy, and understanding—not sympathy."

Afterdark Ryders worked indirectly with World Vision in 2011 when the Bronx group gathered products for Clean the World, a Florida-based charitable organization that collects discarded soap and shampoo from hotels to be recycled. World Vision helps distribute the recycled products worldwide in hygiene kits.

Members of Afterdark Ryders stack soap and diapers on a sidewalk table. The donations will help families in need in the Bronx.

While searching online early this year for another service opportunity, Rafael noticed World Vision's new Bring It for Kids program, which encourages organizations to collect diapers or school supplies for children and families locally or around the world. World Vision created Bring It for Kids in response to two highly successful diaper drives with the Weyerhaeuser corporation.

World Vision posted information about Bring It for Kids on its U.S. Programs' website in early February. "Literally the next day, Rafael found us," says Jen Porter, workplace giving manager for World Vision.

Rafael says he wants to get involved with World Vision after learning that it helped survivors of Superstorm Sandy and others in need. "I became very fond of your organization and the services you provide," he tells World Vision. "By working together, we can make a difference in helping others."

Rafael and Afterdark Ryders are "great to work with," says Tim Reeve, general manager of World Vision's programs in greater New York.

For its next project with World Vision, Afterdark Ryders plans to hold a product drive in September, collecting baby supplies for distribution in the Bronx.

"Giving back is what we do," Rafael says.

His reward for helping those in need? "Honestly? The smiles on their faces," he says. "I know we did something good. A lot of people don't have smiles like that. We get a 'thank you.' I love to see kids get Christmas toys. At the end of the day, when you think about it, they are the future. I want to change my community."