OGDEN, Utah — A car crew in Ogden is making it their mission to change the car scene and the community, breaking down stigmas around car clubs and showing it's about more than meeting up in modified cars.
Every Thursday night in Ogden, the Ogden Midnight Runners (OMR) takes a laid-back cruise through the streets.
Ethan Gerena and his girlfriend drove down Washington Boulevard, pulling up to a stoplight. Gerena rolled down his window and waved to a couple in a white Dodge Ram next to them.
"Hola!" he said. They said 'hi' to their friends, while The Weekend's voice filled the background from the radio.
This car crew isn't trying to race or drive fast. They aren't out to weave in and out of traffic. This car crew is all about what they can do, when they aren't on the road.
As rain drizzled down in a parking lot at the Dollar Tree in Ogden before the cruise, people parked next to each other and slowly got out, walking toward a group standing with umbrellas near the cars.
Twice a week, the Ogden Midnight Runners host a meetup since Gerena and his friend, Luis Chivichon, started the crew last December. The group has slowly grown, adding new members every week.
During this particular meetup, someone named Daniel walked up to Chivichon to introduce himself.
"What do you drive? Luis asked. Daniel answered that he drives a Subaru Outback.
"I think I've seen you around before, and I was like, 'What is that?!'" Luis said, of Daniel's Outback. "And then I saw you at the meet and I was like, 'Woah!'"
OMR doesn't revolve around any one type of make or model. Anyone is welcome in this group.
Gerena called everyone together in a circle to make some announcements.
"Luis and I are going to go scout around Ogden later this week, and we're going to look around for some other areas we can clean up," Gerena said.
He was talking about the other kind of meetup that OMR holds twice a month-- a city cleanup.
On a Sunday afternoon, the group again gathered but this time they all parked next to Ogden Park. Everyone grabbed five-gallon buckets and garbage grabbers, then started walking.
"We're walking up and down 25th, trying to keep it clean. As clean as possible, you know," said Brian Loftus.
They scoured the sidewalks and parking areas, picking up beer bottles, cigarette butts, flattened cans, and other trash.
"To see the good change of Ogden, because there's trash everywhere," said Hector Medina, of why he's involved in OMR and the cleanups. "It's a beautiful town, and we don't need that
The OMR cleanup days are just one of the many ongoing service projects the car crew spearheads.
"We've done one clothes drive, and then we'll be doing another food drive here in May," Gerena said. He added that they are also partnering with Youth Impact for an event to help Latinos become homeowners.
Medina said they also hope to raise money to buy a car for a family in need.
They know it's not what comes to mind when people think of car crews. They know it's not what people would expect the car scene to do.
But that's what Ogden Midnight Runners wants to change.
"The typical stigma would be, 'Oh these guys are just here to hang out, you know, kind of be loud,'" Gerena said, of what others see when they see the OMR group of cars parked in Ogden. "I really hope that when people see us with garbage pickers and buckets and ready to clean up the street, I really hope that people are like, 'You know, they have the sports cars but they're not here to ruin the atmosphere. They're here to kind of pick things up and make it a little better than it was before.'"
Through this, Gerena hopes the car scene can evolve being looked at as loud vehicles racing down the street, into what OMR has created: A safe, uplifting, and fun family helping a community they care about.
"I love doing this type stuff, especially with the crew," Medina said. "Everybody here, I love them all to death."
Destiny Patterson said the best way to think of it, is that they're a family and want to make sure where they're living and what they're doing is clean.
"We just want to be proud of where we live, very much like when you are at your own house you clean up because you want to be proud of where you live," Patterson said, adding, "We're doing the same thing, but for Ogden."