When the Rubber Meets the Road

Julia Delmerico is a bit bemused to find herself the subject of a profile around passion projects.

“If you asked me five years ago if I’d be interested in riding a bike for two days and 165 miles to benefit the community, I may have looked at it like, ‘Well, I do that at work. Why should I use my free time?’”

Julia is the Reentry Program Manager at Metro Inclusive Health, a Tampa Bay nonprofit that’s grown from providing health and wellness services to offering that and other wraparound services. Specifically, Julia oversees the reentry programs that facilitate individuals transitioning from incarceration back into the community. It’s a position she says she’s been lucky enough to grow into.

“I’d heard great things about METRO from my friend who was leaving Florida, and I got my foot in the door as a medical case manager when I moved here nearly 10 years ago.” Once inside the organization she found a mission she could get behind and an organization committed to nurturing and promoting from within. “I’ve been fortunate to grow professionally right along with METRO. Our leaders had and continue to have such a grand plan to expand and serve more patients and offer more services, addressing our clients’ needs in a whole-person way. And my passion has just grown along with the organization and my career.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t work at METRO. I’ve now spent a significant portion of my life working here, and I’ve developed and nurtured relationships with clients over years and across the programs I worked within.”

And who is she today? She’s a bike-riding brand ambassador and fundraiser who’s completed not one but three two-day, 165-mile SMART Rides benefitting METRO’s programs and clients.

She was initially a member of the all-volunteer “crew” that spends a week before and during the race making the logistics of it actually happen. It’s these crews, provided by each of the benefitting organizations that make it possible for 100 percent of the funds raised by the riders to go to seven AIDS service organizations across the state. In its sixteen years, SMART Ride has distributed more than $10.5 million, making it the second largest AIDS bicycle ride in the U.S.—and the only one of its size to give back 100 percent.

After crewing for three races, Julia was gifted a used bike and decided to train for and complete “just one ride.” Spoiler alert: she’s already registered for her fourth ride in 2020.  

This year, Julia raised $1,520 and the ride raised $1.3 million. To see SMART Ride funds in action just take a look at METRO’s mobile testing unit. “It’s an RV we take out into the community offering HIV and hepatitis testing and counselling in communities where maybe they can’t make it into our office.” SMART Ride funds also underwrite vehicles that transport METRO clients to and from appointments and numerous other client activities.

Julia describes SMART Ride as a “truly powerful experience of community. We’re all riding at different paces, different levels, for different reasons—500 riders!—but everybody becomes one huge family. By the end of the closing ceremonies on Saturday afternoon, there’s not a dry eye at the pier.” (Did we mention the race travels from Miami to Key West?)

And what’s her biggest takeaway from her accidental journey from passionate paid employee to passionate volunteer fundraiser who’s now raised $4,295 for METRO? “It’s possible to mesh your hobbies with the work you do. Look for ways to expand your passions both ways. How can your interests benefit others? What about your job can you be passionate about? There’s so much selfishness in the world, but if you’re able to use something you’re passionate about to help others, then it’s never a burden.”

If you’d like to support Julia’s fundraising efforts for METRO, you can donate here.

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