Autometrix employees put the (bike) pedal to the metal to raise money for charity.
By Paul Johnson
Most people experience joy when giving to a charity, but some undergo considerable pain because of their steadfast commitment and support for an enduring cause. Jonathan Palmer, Autometrix Inc. owner and CEO, and Joel Koopmans, customer solutions expert, are so committed to helping troubled teens that they participated in the Agony Ride, a 24-hour bike-a-thon in the Sierra Valley of California. Palmer and Koopmans—both avid cyclists—have participated in the event for more than 10 years. The Agony Ride is a crucial fundraiser for Christian Encounter Ministries, an organization that assists young individuals who have come from difficult living circumstances.
The Autometrix story began in 1979 when John Palmer, Jonathan’s father, founded Marine Computer Systems in Grass Valley, Calif. The company initially made precision tools and software for cutting marine sails. As years passed, the company expanded into fabric cutting for tents, clothing, awnings, automobile products, sporting and medical goods and other industries. With the growth of products and the entry into new markets, the company changed its name to Autometrix in 1989.
Today, Autometrix develops and manufactures advanced tools and software for cutting rolled fabric, vinyl, carbon fiber and a variety of other fabrics in the Grass Valley manufacturing and office facility, which employs about 35 people.
Palmer, Koopmans and the staff at Autometrix looked to give back to the community, and many knew and supported Christian Encounter Ministries. “It was one of those things … it is a natural fit to help them,” says Koopmans. “They take in troubled kids or kids who are struggling with drugs, alcohol and other issues, house them and educate them, so they can get back on their feet.”
The 24-hour Agony Ride is a big fundraising event for the charity, and this year it generated more than $213,000. Approximately 90 riders pedaled between the towns of Vinton, Loyalton and Beckwourth, Calif.
Autometrix has a bike culture, so the event is a confluence of passion for the sport of cycling and support for an important local charity. “We have a lot of bike riders here who go out and ride over lunch,” Palmer says. “This is a way for the guys who ride bikes to give back to the community.”
“Over 24 hours, it was very difficult,” says Koopmans. “It’s the middle of the night or the early morning, and it’s like ‘oh my gosh, I am only halfway through this thing.’ At that point, you remember what you’re riding for. Even in the middle of the night, the kids are taking shifts at the SAG [support and gear] station in each town. The students, staff and volunteers are blowing horns to encourage you to keep going. You see other riders go into a SAG station and their whole bodies are cramped up, and they just about fall off the bike. They are caught by the students and the volunteers who are supporting, encouraging and grateful. That’s what’s so satisfying about the event.”
Any employee had a paid day off to participate in the Agony ride, and several Autometrix workers provided valuable rider support during the event. Koopmans rode 304 miles, Palmer logged in 360 miles and the pair raised more than $18,000 for the charity.
Paul Johnson is a writer based in Minnesota.