Angie Kelley found her redemption on a bicycle, somewhere along the 140-mile route of Ride for the Feast, the annual fundraiser for Moveable Feast. The arduous trail transformed a young woman with a troubled past into something entirely new. A queer advocate. A mother. A woman of worth.
“I once thought that if people saw who I was on the inside, no one would be my friend,” Angie says, taking stock of a recent past that now feels like a lifetime away. It includes growing up in a volatile household, feelings of hopelessness, and then trying to escape it all through alcohol and the destructive free-fall that comes along with it.
Following a health crisis related to her downward spiral, Angie made a personal commitment to improve her health and well-being. She knew she needed to get involved in something outside of herself and the right vehicle to do it. When a friend suggested she check out Ride for the Feast, Angie found the right vehicle. A bicycle.
As she approached the finish line in Baltimore a few months later, Angie’s physical exhaustion was no match for her triumphant emotions. “I had absolutely no idea that I could ever accomplish something like that,” Angie said, echoing the sentiments of so many riders each year who join the event for the first time. “That was so huge to me. One of the first things I thought was, ‘oh my gosh, what else have I been holding myself back from, that I didn’t know I could do?’”
The ride opened a world of new possibilities for Angie, who had always regretted dropping out of college. “That haunted me,” Angie admitted. “But my gratitude for the event made me determined to reach higher, and I really wanted to work for Moveable Feast.” After a couple years proving herself as a volunteer, Angie won her current “dream job” as a volunteer coordinator for the organization.
The experience has been expansive for Angie. She enjoys promoting the Moveable Feast mission to provide sustaining meals to people with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses, but it is in showing new volunteers the very human value of helping others that gets Angie excited each day.
“Moveable Feast showed me the importance of breaking negative patterns,” Angie said. “So, I can turn right around and use that energy to lift someone else up. This organization taught me how to show up, and we teach that to new volunteers, or to Ride for the Feast cyclists, every day.”
Angie has also learned a lot about being authentic, working alongside a colorful and committed group of staff and volunteers. “I identify as a queer woman who happens to be married to a wonderful man,” Angie explains. “I was exclusively with women for several years, so I was a little afraid when I got married that I would lose my connection with that queer community.”
Angie came to the simple conclusion that love is love, after all, and when people choose to have a loving, monogamous relationship, it doesn’t really matter who else they might be capable of sleeping with. “I’m a married woman,” Angie says simply.
She’s also a mother now, having participated in last year’s Ride for the Feast while very pregnant. “We have a beautiful 8-month baby,” Angie said, and then she added, with a wink to gender fluidity, “he’s a boy, as far as we know.”
As Angie and her team of volunteers gear up for this year’s Ride for the Feast, no one may me more in tune with the agency mission than she is. “When I was at my lowest,” she said, “I had friends who stood beside me, cheering me on to get through it. There’s no way I could have made it without them. And for many of our clients here at Moveable Feast, we are those friends. We are that safety net.”
The Ride for the Feast is an adventure — and possibly a life-changing one. Angie urges people of any biking experience level to contact Moveable Feast to get involved. There are opportunities to be riders or to join the large volunteer force that supports the weekend.
“Moveable Feast doesn’t just help our clients. We are a community,” Angie said, giving some thought to how far that first bike ride has actually taken her. “Moveable Feast,” she added, “has given me so much more.”