Hope, Humanity & Housing: Sacramento Mercy Pedalers deliver simple solutions

A Sacramento nonprofit is taking a new, simplistic approach for those living on the streets.

It starts with a cup of coffee.

Mercy Pedalers began one year ago. In that time the nonprofit has grown into more than 50 volunteers.

The nonprofit’s founder, Sister Libby Fernandez, has spent the past quarter century helping those surviving with very little in Sacramento.

Sister Libby led Loaves and Fishes before taking leave and starting Mercy Pedalers.

"To really bring love and care and welcoming the stranger," Sister Libby said. “It's really about a one-on-one relationship and building trust, care and saying 'Hey, how else can I help you today? I'm here for you.'"

This is how it works: Sister Libby pedals a trike full of donated necessities and information on pilgrimages, estimating she serves around 100 a day.

"Deodorant, lotion, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand wipes, even combs, bar soaps,” Sister Libby said. "And then of course the resources -- where can they go tonight."

But the coffee is integral.

"Part of the communication is to offer what people would like -- to start the dialogue. ‘Would you like coffee? Would you like cream and sugar in it?’ While I am stirring it, I am having a conversation,” Sister Libby said.

Sister Libby said one day they may be asking for soap and shampoo, and the next, it could be how to get into a shelter.

"It's steps. But you got to start somewhere," Sister Libby said.

In the nonprofit’s first year, what began as a solo operation has blossomed into an army of compassion.

"I love it because it started as, you know, just myself and a few followers, and now we have 50 mercy peddlers," Sister Libby said. "Everything's donated, from the coffee, to the hygiene items, to the nutritional bars. So we try to keep our operations very minimal. It's all volunteers and all donations."


Volunteers range from ages 20 to 82 -- from college students, full-time jobs, and retirees.

"I think they know that I enjoy it just as much as they do. It's the truth,” volunteer Kathleen Sanders, 82, said. “I think it keeps me alive. You know, without purpose why do you get up in the morning?"

Each volunteer selects their own neighborhood -- from Cesar Chavez, McKinley, and Roosevelt parks to Burrito Dave on Broadway.

"I feel like these people out here are just like any one of us,” volunteer Diana Jorgensen said. “It could happen to anybody at any time."

Sister Libby said there is nothing like this in California. She is hoping to branch Mercy Pedalers throughout the state and beyond.

"It comes from their heart. It doesn't come from something they have to do,” Jonathon Britton, who benefits from the service, said. "They come out with their little baskets and hand it out. It makes my day."


Hope, Humanity & Housing is a four-part, in-depth look at new solutions to the complicated and growing disparities of those struggling to find affordable housing in Sacramento.

Reporter Vicki Gonzalez spent the past year on this series as a recipient of the 2018 California Fellowship with USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.

Each part will air Friday at 6 p.m. on KCRA3 and 10 p.m. on MY58 from Sept. 21 to Oct. 12.

[This story was originally published by KCRA3.]

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