Under wall-to-wall brightness from our nearest star, the cars and trucks were lined up in front of the Buttonwood Park Warming House in New Bedford, cascading around the corner, each vehicle filled with bags and boxes of canned goods and nonperishables for the United Way's Hunger Heroes Project.

In the 29 years that WBSM and Fun 107 have been collecting foods to be donated at Thanksgiving, generous people of the community have stepped forward to make the cause a success, and this year was no different in that respect. Residents came from all across the region, including from the imaginary New Bedford Star System – a land of make believe, whose cyclists, known as the New Bedford Starchasers, have joined up with United Way for the third year.

The utopian idea started 25 years ago when a group of "weirdos" led by Fleet Admiral Skunk got together and formed "The Mighty Skull," according to David Civitarese, a.k.a. Civitron, the leader of the pack.

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"We're a local sci-fi themed bicycle chopper group, out to bust the funk and seek out like-minded individuals wanting to create a safe, harmonious space for people of all walks of life, who enjoy building and riding weird bikes together," Civitron said.

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The bicycles are as unique as those riding them.

"This year, I'm riding Starfire, the flagship of the Starchasers Division, built out of a few derelict skeletons of abandoned bikes, culled from the nearby space ship forest," Civitron said. "We all put work into either fixing up old, ditched bicycles, or altering rejected bikes, and transforming them in some creative way."

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"We call the Hunger Heroes Project our 'Cranksgiving,'" Civitron said. "It's part scavenger hunt, part food drive, and a madcap adventure through the New Bedford Star System to collect food for people before the holiday season. We have a list of foods we're looking for and at every stop, we declare what specific item we're looking for, like veggies at one stop, side dishes at another, and dessert at another location. Along the way, we play games, do a lot of dancing that attracts a crowd and spreads good cheer."

This year, they also teamed up with the group Take Back New Bedford and the SouthCoast's LGBTQ network.

The New Bedford Starchasers exist not only to do good deeds for the greater good of the community, but to lift up the community's individuals as well.

"We ask people to be the superhero version of themselves," Civitron said. "If they're doing that, then they're on the right track, whether it's helping somebody or trying to be the best they can be. That's what the New Bedford Starchasers are all about."

To that, I say "nanu nanu," accompanied by a Vulcan-like, peaceful hand gesture.

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United Way of Greater New Bedford Hunger Heroes Food Drive 2021

Hundreds of donors dropped off food at the Buttonwood Park Warming House, assisting the United Way in helping reach its goal of 1,000 Thanksgiving food baskets for needy families.

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