Putting a mission into motion; Cyclists stop in Washington while on mission to end low-income housing

Published 6:46 am Saturday, June 10, 2023

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A group of 35 people, most of whom are cyclists, are traveling up the East Coast from Tybee Island, Georgia to Portland, Maine in an effort to end low-income housing by building or repairing homes belonging to families in need. 


They are traveling with the Fuller Center for Housing (Fuller Center) which is an ecumenical Christian 501(c)(3) organization based out of Americus, Georgia. The center’s mission is to provide adequate housing for people in need. They work across America and in other parts of the world to bring together individuals, churches, businesses, schools and civic organizations eager to fulfill the center’s mission. 


One of the ways the Fuller Center puts their mission into motion is through what they call a “Bike Adventure.” Individuals can sign up to cycle in one of five rides planned by the center. The center offers cross-country rides from California to North Carolina, up the East Coast, through Florida, through the Gulf Coast starting in Texas then ending in Pensacola, through Florida and a ride from Jackson, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Individuals can choose to cycle the entire trip or segments of it. 


Cyclists in the East Coast ride started on Tybee Island on May 26 and will arrive in Portland by June 25. On Tuesday (June 6), they stopped in Washington to rest for the night at First Baptist Church on Harvey Street before they made their way to a building project in Williamston. 


Cyclists Jackie Rouse and Tim DeClue shared why they chose to take on the Bike Adventure. 


Rouse found the Bike Adventure while searching the internet for cross-country rides, and it had “everything she wanted,” she said. 


DeClue had a similar story noting the center’s mission as a reason why he joined the adventure. DeClue is a professor at Southwest Baptist University in Missouri. 


Rouse has been cycling for many years and said it takes “months” of preparation to trek more than 1,300 miles from Georgia to Maine. She said the preparation makes the ride “more fun.” 


DeClue has been cycling for three years. “At least at my age, you can’t just jump on a bike and ride 60, 70, 80 miles,” he joked. The age range between all cyclists on this ride is between 22 and 74. . 


Their East Coast ride will take four weeks total, cross 13 states and is divided into four segments. Within a month, the cyclists will complete five build days. Each day, cyclists travel between 50-70 miles that are broken down into 20 mile portions so they can rest, drink water and eat. On Tuesday, the cyclists traveled 72 miles which took four hours and eight minutes to complete. 


Registration for a ride is about $300, but cyclists on the East Coast are required to raise either $1,000 for the segments they ride or $3,000 for the whole trip. Other rides have different fundraising goals. Money that is raised pays costs associated with building projects. 


To reduce the amount of cost associated with every ride, cyclists stay together at either churches or community centers. Meals are provided by either hosts or they are prepared by rotating chore teams. They shower either at the host site, at local schools, community centers, YMCAs or other public facilities. They do laundry at a laundromat. 


“One of the things that excites me about the Fuller Center is that 97% of the funds go directly to materials or building activities,” DeClue said, “that’s excellent and it shows how serious they are about addressing the (housing) problem.”  


He continued, “I don’t have to think about or guess if the money that I’m giving or the activities that I’m doing are actually going to address the issue. I know it is, because I’m watching it happen,” DeClue said.


The projects vary between building handicap accessible ramps, fixing ceilings, roofs, taking care of landscaping and more. All of the tools needed for the project are arranged and brought by a Fuller Center affiliate so that cyclists can arrive and begin the project. 


Those on the East Coast ride will do one building project every week and each project takes about eight hours to complete. They are in a routine of traveling for five days, working for one then attending church and resting on Sundays. 


One of the “most amazing” aspects of a Bike Adventure, in DeClue’s opinion, is seeing homeowners’ reactions. “These repairs obviously they can’t make on their own or they would have already made them. Being able to join in with others and help them out in that way is really fulfilling…” 


He continued, “It’s obvious that affordable housing is a need. You can go to any town and there are people living in houses that are not weather-worthy, that can’t keep them warm in the winter, that can’t keep them cool in the summer. People have this need and for many of us, we don’t really know how to address that need, but the Fuller Center does,”


For Rouse, she not only enjoys seeing the gratitude on homeowners’ faces after a project is done. She also enjoys being around people who are “like-minded.” Members of this East Coast ride traveled from around the country and even one member traveled from England to be part of the Bike Adventure.