Ed Aranda sits on his Harley Davidson bike. Dressed in a black leather vest, jeans and a red bandana underneath a cap bearing the name of his biker organization—ABATE—the 63-year-old Imperial resident talks of a 20-year passion of his to serve the community.
November is a special month for this biker.
It is this month in which ABATE Local 38, the Imperial Valley chapter of what is a very large motorcycle organization, holds its annual Turkey Run, an event to provide turkeys to charitable groups and churches throughout the Valley that in turn give those turkeys to disadvantaged families in time for Thanksgiving.
He and his wife, Barbara—also a member of ABATE—started the charity event in 1997, and it has grown larger every year thanks to their efforts, the help of their fellow bikers, and donations from the community.
“It’s a win-win,” said Aranda, who was interviewed outside the Sister Evelyn Mourey Center, a quiet assuming facility serving poor families … and one of the charities that receives turkeys from Aranda’s ABATE chapter. “We get to give back to the community and ride our bikes.”
This year’s Turkey Run will be held Nov. 18. Bikers from throughout the Imperial Valley (as many as a hundred have participated in past years) will gather at the El Centro Wal-Mart at 8 a.m. The donated turkeys will be loaded into pickups for their journey around the Valley to different charities. A trail of motorcycles will lead the way—hence the name Turkey Run.
There are some 12 charities around the Valley that will receive turkeys, and Aranda said they have requested a total of 355 turkeys. At the time of this interview, he was a little nervous as the group was around a $1,000 shy of meeting their donation goal, but he remained positive there would be enough turkeys to meet the demand. Last year, his group provided 345 turkeys—the total requested by the charity organizations.
“In a perfect world, there would be no reason for a Turkey Run, but the need is always up,” he said. “Unfortunately, our membership is a little down, so you can only do so much and just let the Lord provide.”
Aranda said it is through the generosity of the community that the Turkey Run has been such a success with local companies sponsoring through donations and sponsorships. El Centro Motors donates pick-ups to help deliver the turkeys. And community volunteers, even if not a part of the local ABATE chapter, help drive the trucks.
“We need those pickups,” Aranda said. “Strapping a turkey to your bike doesn’t work so well.”
Aranda calls the Turkey Run—and a similar toy run ABATE does at Christmas—a labor of love. He said it is a way to give back to the community in which he was raised.
Born in Los Angeles, Aranda was raised in Holtville by his aunt and uncle.
“I think the good Lord just wanted me to be raised in a small town,” he said.
He graduated from Holtville High School in 1973 and left the Valley for a time to study in Phoenix to be a mechanic, a profession he worked in for ten years. However, he later made the choice to study water treatment at Imperial Valley College, which led him to work for the city of El Centro at the Water Treatment Plant in a career that would span 27 years before he retired.
It was early in his career at the water plant when a friend and co-worker at the facility who rode motorcycles suggested Aranda attend an ABATE meeting. That was 1992. Up until then, he had some experience riding four-wheel and three-wheel all-terrain vehicles, but never motorcycles.
Once he attended, he was hooked. He found a brotherhood to which he could belong. Of course, he didn’t own a motorcycle or even know how to ride. He would drive a chase vehicle during chapter events to help riders should they have problems with their bikes.
In 1993, Frank Seaman, a local business owner, visited the ABATE chapter with a bike for sale—a 1986 883 Sportster. Aranda bought it for $3,000, and began riding it on back roads until he was comfortable enough to take his motorcycle license test.
He’s been riding ever since. He even met his wife at ABATE. She had her own motorcycle—one larger than his.
Over the years, Aranda has served many times as president of ABATE, including this year. ABATE is a nonprofit organization. The name is an acronym for American Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education, and the national biker organization focuses on educating and lobbying government leaders on issues related to motorcycle use, legislation and law.
However, the organization also works to benefit communities, and together with his wife, Aranda started the Turkey Run. That first year, they gave away 26 turkeys.
“Back then, the unemployment rate was like 40 percent, and we figured this was something we could to help,” he said. “We didn’t know if this was going to fly, but it has gotten bigger and bigger each year.”
At Sister Evelyn Mourey Center, Program Manager Lourdes Cienfuegos said the Turkey Run makes a difference for the people the center serves.
“It’s a big, huge help,” said Cienfuegos, who also helps design the Turkey Run T-shirts and flyers. “At this time, we have the poorest of the poor and sometimes it feels like we are a forgotten community because the Valley doesn’t get much support, so the Turkey Run makes a difference.”
She added, “We identify the families in need of this help, and of course, they also help us at Christmas with toys.”
A neighbor of Aranda’s, Clint Fowlkes, has sponsored the Turkey Run each year on behalf of AutoZone on Adams Avenue in El Centro. Fowlkes manages the store. Not only does he and AutoZone sponsor, but Fowlkes has volunteered to drive the trucks that haul the turkeys.
“It’s such a good feeling,” he said. “The people, they can’t thank us enough. It’s such a worthy cause to be a part of.”
Aranda, who also works part time at the AutoZone on Fourth Street in El Centro, wants to make sure the Turkey Run continues to serve the Valley for years to come. As president of the local ABATE chapter, he wants to see the membership grow, in particular with young members, who can take on the leadership of such events.
But for now, he will continue to lead the effort.
“I would not want this Turkey Run to go by the waste side,” he said. “I would hope my legacy would be for this to continue way past my time.”
For anyone interesting in donating for the Turkey Run, you can contact Aranda at his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.