By Bike or Trike
Mercy Pedlars provide supplies and compassion to the homeless
By Jessica Laskey
Michael Saeltzer has done plenty of volunteer work in his time. He’s helped out at his kids’ school, and he founded East Sac Give Back, which raised money to rebuild the McKinley Park playground when it burned to the ground in 2012. But he didn’t feel satisfied.
“I wanted to go out there and do something more profound and intimate—to give back in a tangible, meaningful way that nourished me at the same time,” he says.
So when the East Sac real estate broker read about Sister Libby Fernandez, who served as executive director of Loaves & Fishes before founding Mercy Pedalers in 2017, something clicked.
“After 25 years serving the homeless at Loaves & Fishes, she decided she
needed to look beyond that and reconnect with the people she’d been serving for so long,” Saeltzer says.
“The Mercy Pedalers do just that: We’re a hyperlocal bicycle ministry that goes out and meets people on the street. I always say that I don’t represent an organization; I’m just a Mercy Pedaler. I’m here to give you a cup of coffee and items you might need like socks, sunscreen and mosquito repellent.”
Mercy Pedlars are bicyclists and tricyclists who ride around town and reach out to people experiencing homelessness on Sacramento streets. Their primary goal is to call them by name and share a moment of true connection—something that deeply satisfies Saeltzer in a way he didn’t expect.
“For me, it’s a sacred interaction with someone I wouldn’t ordinarily come across,” Saeltzer says. He’s involved his daughters in the effort; they send donations they collect to Sister Libby and accompany Saeltzer on his rounds down Alhambra Boulevard to hand out bags of supplies they prepared at home. “When we pass homeless people now, my daughters talk about them differently,” he says. “It helps humanize things. They feel like they’re making a real difference.”
Volunteering for Mercy Pedalers allows him to see the impact he can make in a small, meaningful way. Unlike some volunteer organizations, Mercy Pedlars doesn’t have a quota of hours a volunteer must work. There are no set working hours as long as service falls between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Saeltzer says this takes the pressure off and allows him to simply be present with the people he’s serving.
“If you want to do it, you can,” he says. “You do it when you can, and when you can’t, it doesn’t count against you. The whole goal is to take the time to approach people with dignity and build trust and offer help. Just a little tiny help—that’s all you need.”
For more information about Mercy Pedlars, go to mercypedalers.com.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.