Ride for Lonnie

Community reaches out to friend in need

by Clay Neely - clay@newnan.com


David Pengelly and Lonnie on Christmas Eve at Senoia Coffee & Cafe.

“The hardest thing to do in the world is help someone who needs help but just won’t accept it,” said Suzanne Pengelly, owner of Senoia Coffee and Cafe.

“Lonnie is a citizen of Senoia and our mission is to get him back on his feet with a helping hand,” said Pengelly. “So many of our guests often ask about him.”

Lonnie is a resident of Senoia who suffered some hard times last year, experiencing several losses in his family among other personal hardships.

While on his way to dine at Senoia Coffee and Cafe last November, Lonnie fell while walking. “When he arrived, his face was bloody so we called the EMTs for their assistance,” said Pengelly.

However, Lonnie refused their assistance. Pengelly begged him to accept help, but he just kept saying “no.”

“I had to sit down with Lonnie and tell him that these people were my friends and they only want to help. I said, ‘Lonnie, we all need a little help every once in a while and right now, you need help,’” said Pengelly.

Lonnie began to cry and finally accepted the help of the EMTs.

“After that, we didn’t see him in town over the next two days, so we decided to check on him at his home,” said Pengelly. “It was there we found Lonnie alone and unable to walk due to an old knee injury. He was living without electricity or water.”

After that, both Suzanne and her husband, David, began visiting him two to three times daily, bringing him food and water, but they were ultimately disheartened by the fact his health continued to decline.

“He was losing weight and we would ask him every day if he would go to a hospital,” said Pengelly. “But he always said no. At the end of November, we asked him to please go to the hospital and he finally agreed. ”

Since then, Lonnie has been looking better. He continues to receive physical rehab treatments and was able to attend a candlelight Christmas Eve dinner at the coffee shop.

“David had bought him a box of cigars for Christmas and he was so overjoyed,” said Suzanne Pengelly. “Lonnie is known for his love of cigars but wasn’t able to have one since he went into the hospital. You should have seen him walking down the street that evening. It was special.”

Ever since Lonnie entered the hospital, Suzanne Pengelly has ceaselessly worked to rebuild Lonnie’s environment. With the help of the community, she has found a multitude of volunteers with willing hearts and hands.

“Lonnie’s pride won’t allow him to ask for anything, including his VA benefits, and he questioned why we are helping him,” said Pengelly. “We have worked to get his electric turned on and his well repaired through the kindness of Tim Davis at Georgia Well. The Dust Bunnies came to clean his kitchen while Penco Restoration has helped repair his roof.” Both Katie Lou’s Cafe and Senoia Coffee and Cafe have started a gift card program for Lonnie along with Subway, Maguire's and Chapultepec Mexican Restaurant, which helps with the cost of his daily meals. The gift card program works on a ‘pay it forward basis.’ At any point, if anyone wants to put some money on the tab, it helps pay for his next meal.

“Members of the Coweta Fayette Rotary Club have helped with the cost of his meals and we thank all of our kind guests at the Cafe who have helped out by purchasing a meal or two,” said Pengelly.

Among the good deeds being done on the behalf of Lonnie, both Senoia Cycle Works and Katie Lou’s Cafe will be sponsoring a “Ride for Lonnie” charity bicycle ride Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. that will start on Main Street.

“The goal is to get him back on his feet,” said Deborah Tyler of Senoia Cycle Works.

“There’s a bank account set up at the Senoia branch of Ozark Bank called ‘The Lonnie Fund’ and any donations that come in from the ride or after the ride will go to him,” said Ty Ridgeway of Senoia Cycle Works. “The account at the bank is for things in terms of hard goods that he needs, housewares and repairs.

“But if anyone wants to put a little something extra on the tab at the restaurants, that’ll allow Lonnie to come eat.”

The “Ride for Lonnie” will be led by Senoia Cycle Works and is suitable for any skill level. There is no charge to join the ride, although donations to the “Lonnie Fund” are welcome.

The ride will begin at Senoia Cycle Works on Main Street and end two doors down at Katie Lou’s Café, where 20 percent of the cost of all riders’ meals that evening will go to the fund.

“It’s truly inspiring how so many people have rallied around him,” said Pengelly. “However, there’s still so much more work to be done.” She is hopeful for a late February homecoming for Lonnie.

“There are so many people like Lonnie that are in our midst, but unless we look closely, we never see them. A story like Lonnie’s isn’t all that uncommon,” said Pengelly. “We all simply need to open our eyes just a little more.”

For ride details and more information, contact Ty Ridgeway or Deborah Tyler at Senoia Cycle Works at 770-599-0308.

Participants can also visit the Senoia Cycle Works Facebook page for updates due to weather.

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