While most students are spending their summer days at various jobs, internships and vacation sites, junior Whitney Clark and senior Marylynn King will be participating in a unique and extraordinary nationwide service project, Bike and Build. Bike and Build’s slogan, “Pedaling to End Poverty Housing,” sums up the program’s goal and the route that participants take to reach that goal. Clark and King will be spending nine weeks bicycling across the country in an effort to raise nationwide awareness of affordable housing.
Bike and Build is an independent organization (not formally affiliated with Habitat for Humanity) that sponsors five bicycle routes across North America, each with hundreds of community stops along the way, reaching 32 states by the program’s end. Clark will be spending her nine-week trip riding from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Cannon Beach, Oregon, while King will participate in the ride from Providence, Rhode Island, to San Francisco, California. Because he routes do not overlap, the bicyclists spend all nine weeks with their respective group only, although Clark and King have gotten to know each other this semester after hearing of their mutual interest in the program.
Throughout the trip, the bicyclists stay in churches, community centers and schools in communities across the country. At each stop, they give presentations about affordable housing efforts and help build homes for projects chosen through grants. The competitive grant process results in the awarding of funding to affordable housing projects to be planned and carried out entirely by young adults ages 18 through 25. Though these home building projects are not a part of every community stop, over 200 hours are completed at each building site at which the bicyclists work. The group will be “educating people from coast to coast,” Clark said. The organization describes its program as “a catalyst to build homes, foster the spirit of service, and empower young adults…mile by mile, house by house.”
Participants in Bike and Build are 18 to 24 years of age, mostly college students or recent college graduates interested in community service. One motto of the group that speaks to its emphasis on young adult involvement in service is, “we are young and we could change the world.”
“I hope this trip will give me the experience and confidence to believe in the validity and success of non-profit work so that I may leave Colgate with a fresh take on my future goals and expectations,” King said.
Thirty young adults participate in each of the five trips, for a total of 150 participants. With the participation of these riders, Bike and Build hopes to raise over $300,000 this summer for affordable housing projects.
The set itinerary for Bike and Build includes 30 to 100 miles of bicycling each day, with daily mileage totals increasing over the course of the trip, but this does not mean that all participants are serious athletes. Clark found out about the program by word of mouth and mutual friends who have participated and, having done community service and gone on a Habitat for Humanity service trip in the past, felt she “had to do something.” However, she is no professional bicyclist. In fact, when deciding to join the program she did not own her own bike, and she has never ridden a road bike!
All participants are required to raise $4,000 to fund affordable housing projects, and after $2,000 is raised Bike and Build orders a bike for the rider. When $3,000 in donations is achieved, the bike is sent to the participant. Clark is eagerly awaiting the arrival of her bike, which is currently being assembled, so she can get on the road and start preparing for her cross-country trek.
Similarly, King is also new to road biking. She was introduced to the program by Colgate senior Gavin Gregory, who participated in Bike and Build two years ago on the Providence, Rhode Island to Seattle, Washington trip.
“After a little research, I realized that I absolutely had to try it out for myself,” King said. “I have very little experience working with affordable housing and this trip will also be my introduction to road biking. As of right now, my longest ride is 20 miles, but when the weather’s nice, my bike is [my] favorite mode of transportation.”
In order to raise the significant funds required for participation, Clark and King approached friends, relatives, professors and anyone they hoped would support their cause.
“One of the greatest parts about this trip is that I’ve involved over 50 families and individuals from my hometown to support a great cause,” King commented.
Both women have been overwhelmingly successful in raising funds. Clark has already reached the required total and King is quickly approaching it.
“I never expected it!” Clark said of her $4,096 current donation total, “people are being so generous. It’s amazing!”
King has raised $3,400, and is confident that she’ll reach the necessary $4,000 total over the next several weeks.
With the start dates of their trips (Clark’s in May and King’s in June) quickly approaching, both women are eager to get on the road.
“It’s going to change my perspective,” Clark said, “I’ve never been to most of the states I’m going to. Aside from Colgate, I’ve never really been to rural areas. Most of what I know is much more developed.”
Clark, a Philadelphia native, is a classics and French major and is active at Colgate as a member of Delta Delta Delta, a Greek tutor and a Merrill House employee.
King, who is involved in activities including Students for Environmental Action, Green Strides, Club Ultimate Frisbee and Green Earth Gang, commented that she’s “excited to have my own reasons and compulsions for making a difference in impoverished rural communities. I’ve been afforded everything I could ever need and want; now it’s my turn to be involved with a cause that makes a difference on a larger scale than I have worked in the past.”
King, a geology major and geography minor, is from Winston-Salem, North Carolina and has driven across the country twice in three years, but looks forward to the different perspective she’ll gain from this trip.
“National parks and studying geology were the focus of my past trips but now I’m ready for something really incredible,” she said. “This trip will test my will, strength, and knees in ways these integral parts of myself have never been pushed.”
To learn more about Bike and Build, or to make donations to Clark’s and King’s personal trips, students are encouraged to contact Clark or King, or visit the organization’s website at www.bikeandbuild.org.