Bike and Build Completes 527 Mile Trek to Benefit Affordable HousingBy Andy Sharpe |
As you undoubtedly know by now, this summer has been a scorching one all along the East Coast, filled with temperatures well into the 90’s and humidity levels that make afternoons feel like they’re in the triple digits. Yet, this extreme sizzle didn’t stop the local affordable housing nonprofit Bike and Build from holding its most successful Capital Ride ever.
The Capital Ride is a 527-mile bike trek from Virginia to Philadelphia where participants help build and raise money for affordable housing. The ride took place for two weeks in late July, and was Bike and Build’s fourth such test of endurance and devotion to a good cause.
The Capital Ride raised $43,076 from 21 riders, said Justin Villere, director of operations and outreach for Bike and Build. Of the 21 riders, an impressive 18 took part in the entire two-week ride from Richmond, VA to Philadelphia. The remaining three riders participated for one week. Along with raising a small windfall, bicyclists helped build homes for low-income residents in Charlottesville, VA, Frederick, MD, and Philadelphia.
Bicyclists and other volunteers are especially proud of their work with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville in reconstructing an entire community, according to Chelsea Miles, a biker from West Chester. Specifically, Miles said the volunteers spent two days erecting an apartment complex and duplexes to replace a trailer park.
Connor Ashenbrucker, a Capital Ride trip leader, also spoke highly of the group’s work in Western Virginia. “It is also the first trailer park relocation project in the country that will provide housing for every single resident in the park,” he exclaimed. Ashenbrucker said residents of the new complex and duplexes are committed to a strong sense of community, which includes a communal outdoors area and a devoted neighborhood association.
The two-wheeled travelers and fellow volunteers also made a difference in Philadelphia on their last day of riding, working with Rebuilding Together Philadelphia to spruce up West Philly. Miles says the crew painted, landscaped, removed litter, and activated smoke detectors along Holly St. Not only was Bike and Build able to donate time and people-power to Rebuilding Together, but they also presented the local chapter of the nonprofit with a $20,000 grant, said Villere.
Villere excitedly says this year’s Capital Ride was the most lucrative in the trek’s four-year history. The $43,000 raised was almost $8,000 more than the money generated during last year’s ride, and dwarfed the $27,740 ponied up in 2009 and the $19,797 that riders contributed in 2010. It’s worth mentioning that the 2009 ride did feature three more riders than did this year’s. Villere says it’s possible the record fundraising can be attributed to Bike and Build’s tenth anniversary. It should elude surprise that there was a tenth anniversary fete immediately following the ride’s culmination, which brought together 105 former ride participants.
Not only did riders endure the grueling 527-mile journey, 17% grade hills, and four days of builds, but they were also subject to searing heat and strong storms. Ashenbrucker recounted the 105-degree heat riders sweated through in Gettysburg, PA, and the powerful storm that brought an end to that heat. At least bicyclists got a reprieve for several hours during the storm, as Bike and Build won’t allow its volunteers to pedal through lightning. Another trip leader, Mary Stevens, made the best of the heat. “I found the heat very encouraging because it forced me to bike faster, so as to create my own ‘air conditioning,’” she said. Stevens added that she felt the full brunt of the heat and humidity whenever she had to stop biking.
Bike and Build is encouraged about what the record amount of money raised could mean for future long-distance bike rides for affordable housing. Villere hopes to open the Capital Ride up to additional riders in the future, as well as create other “regional rides” on the East Coast or elsewhere. Believe it or not, the Richmond to Philadelphia excursion is short by Bike and Build standards. In fact, the nonprofit has an astounding eight cross-country routes, all of which run from the tip of the East Coast to the tip of the West Coast. One such route even goes into Canada, running between Vancouver and Portsmouth, NH. Villere is optimistic that the avid participation of riders in the Capital Ride will mean a spike in the number of people pedaling across the country.
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