A little pedal power goes a long way and does a lot of good.
A group of young adults are proving that this summer as they take part in cross-country cycling trips and stop along the way to build or advocate for affordable housing. Flatirons Habitat for Humanity was lucky enough to host the Central U.S. ride group on Wednesday, when the 36 young adults pitched in to work on our Wonderland Creek project.
Riding from Virginia Beach, Va., to Cannon Beach, Ore., the group was about halfway through their ride when they worked with us in Boulder. They arrived in Colorado on July 2, stopping in Akron and Denver before Boulder, where they were graciously given accommodations and two meals by First Congregational Church of Boulder, with lunch provided during their build day by First United Methodist Church Boulder.
In all, the Central U.S. group is traveling for 11 weeks and will help build affordable housing in multiple states, including Colorado, Ohio, Kansas and Oregon. In order to participate in the trip, each rider raised at least $4,800 to help cover costs and donate to affordable housing efforts nationwide.
Bike & Build offers three cross-country and two regional biking trips each summer. The 18- to 29-year-old riders see and experience first-hand the affordable housing need in this country. They stop in towns along their route and participate in construction efforts at affordable housing sites that are in progress. The riders also meet with local officials and community members to discuss affordable housing issues.
Since its founding in 2003, Bike & Build has engaged more than 3,300 young adult volunteers and contributed more than $6.2 million and 225,000 volunteer hours to housing groups, such as Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together, YouthBuild and GRID Alternatives, to fund projects in the United States.
Each rider has a reason for hitting the road with Bike & Build, with all but one being first-time riders. Some cyclists said they did it because the timing was perfect to see the country and contribute, while others said they were drawn to it because of the amazing stories they heard from ride alumni. Some were avid cyclists; some were newbies, who got their first long-distance road experience on the B&B training rides that totaled 500 miles. All, though, said the trip aligned with their beliefs of giving back and making a difference.
Emily, a 23-year-old who just graduated from Michigan State, said she did it mostly for the challenge. Not a road cyclist before the trip, she said she wanted to prove to herself she could do it and “the fact that I can do it and help people along the way is a huge factor.”
Liz, also 23 and also from Michigan, said she just got her first road bike before Bike & Build pulled out of Virginia. Why’d she ride? “It aligns with issues I care about,” she said, adding that there is no better way to travel and see the beauty of American than from the seat of a bike at 15 mph.
She also said she enjoyed the chance to see affordable housing not only from a nationwide perspective, but at a local level and how the issue and solutions are different in every community.
For Josh, 19, Bike & Build was the window that opened after a door closed. His family has long helped host B&B riders at their church in St. Joseph, Missouri. He had applied to work this summer with Reach Mission Trips. The day he learned he hadn’t been hired was the same day he learned applications were open for Bike & Build.
“What a coincidence,” he said, adding that he decided he could still make a difference with his summer, just in a different way. Josh is an avid cyclist, pedaling since he was 9 or 10 and road biking since he was about 13, but he could easily give up cycling all together and no one would blame him. He was hit by a car while riding in 2014 and suffered a long list of injuries including cracked ribs, a broken collarbone, a broken jaw. He didn’t get back on his bike for about a year.
But now he’s in Colorado, the injuries behind him and riding more than 4,000 miles and making that difference he wanted to this summer.
It doesn’t hurt that the company is fantastic along the way, said Katie, who is on her second Bike & Build ride and helping to lead the Central U.S. group. “They’re my favorite people to be around. They’re energetic and awesome.”
We thought so, too, and were thrilled to get to meet them as they traveled through our state. Next up is a ride day to Estes Park before building with Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley Friday in Longmont. Then they will visit Granby, Walden, Steamboat Springs and Maybell, before arriving in Utah on July 13.
Flatirons Habitat was thrilled to welcome back Bike & Build, not only because of the work riders completed while here, but also for the work they can do to inspire young people to get involved in their communities and affordable housing.
“Our goal is to raise awareness of and to rally volunteers in our community, with a focus on youth,” said Flatirons Habitat Executive Director Susan Lythgoe. “Inviting youth to engage with our affiliate to build homes for deserving families, we envision capturing youth interest in future Habitat programs. We believe that raising awareness for affordable housing in our community will have a local, state and national impact. Bike & Build is a premier example of this.”
Bike & Build has been a longtime partner of Flatirons Habitat and since 2010 has provided the affiliate with more than $22,225 in grants and rider-designated donations.
Those interested can follow the riders who are visiting Colorado on a blog at cus17.wordpress.com or on Instagram (#cus17).
Huge thanks to the organization, the riders and the churches who made their visit possible. We are so grateful to all of them, as well as everyone, who believes as we do that everyone deserves a decent, affordable place to live.
About Flatirons Habitat for Humanity: Building strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. Founded in 1993, Flatirons Habitat for Humanity is a local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International. Its goal is to transform lives and communities by building simple, energy-efficient, affordable homes for families living in the Boulder Valley School District and Broomfield communities. Our program is a hand up, not a handout. Your financial support, your time and your voice help bring independence to families in our community in need of a decent place to live. For more information, visit www.flatironshhabitat.org or call 303-447-3787.
About Bike & Build: Based in Philadelphia, Bike & Build is a nonprofit organization that encourages young adults to address the country’s affordable housing crisis through organized bicycle trips. Trip participants support the affordable housing cause by fundraising and building efforts. For more information, visit www.bikeandbuild.org or call 267-331-8488.