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Place of Forsyth director takes on 420-mile bike ride for charity
Joni Smith

FORSYTH COUNTY -- There are countless ways to raise money. Why not bike 420 miles through four states in one week to help the local community?

That’s how Joni Smith, the executive director of The Place of Forsyth County, said she decided to mark the 40th anniversary of the emergency services and food pantry nonprofit. She pledged to donate $.40 for every mile she pedals to the organization and hopes others will match her.

“It isn’t a huge amount, but I wanted to do something that was representative of our 40th year of being in our community,” said Smith, who took the head position this year after longtime director Sandy Beaver retired. “Everyone can do that.

“And that’s assuming I make the 420 miles, we’re talking $168 … It will enable us to do a lot with the pantry and the services we provide.”

Smith will take her bicycle through Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas in the Ride the Fault Line seven-day trek. Along the way, she will have the chance to tour the area and cross the Mississippi River on a ferry.

She can bike at her own pace but must make it 60 miles each day.

“If I’m able to stand at the end of the day, I’m going to post some pictures on [The Place’s] Facebook page,” she said. “It’s more of a personal challenge.

“I’m doing it with a friend, but he has done bike rides like this before. I’ve never challenged myself in this way.”

She started training in April, which she said was delayed due to weather.

Before training, she said she hadn’t been on a serious bike ride in years.

“I’m really starting to ramp up my training more and more,” she said. “Three times during the week I’m doing almost 20 miles at either Fowler Park or Big Creek, and this weekend I’m getting on the Silver Comet Trail and doing 100 miles.”

Smith started cycling about five years ago.

“My first ride was a breast cancer awareness ride in Florida. When we got there, we thought it was a 15-mile ride, and they said it’s 30. It was a hard 30 miles, but we did it,” Smith said.

“Doing it with a purpose really puts a lot of pressure on me to finish and go in it with the right attitude.”

Anyone who wants to match Smith’s donation per mile can email her at or join her cause at

“I’m not getting any younger, and I can think about these things and say, ‘I’m too old and too out of shape,’ or I can tackle it,” she said.

“I’m doing to give it my best shot and I’m going to do everything I can do to prepare.”