By Kevin Shannahan
Natchitoches’ First United Methodist Church hosted a group of 30 bicycle riders Thursday night, June 2, as they made their way from Jacksonville, Fla. to Monterrey, Cali. The bicyclists are members of Bike & Build, a volunteer organization that raises money for, and awareness of, affordable housing. Bike & Build, in operation since 2003, has a simple premise: Young people biking from coast to coast stopping for “build days” in which they help Habitat for Humanity, We Build Together and other housing organizations.
The group averages 70 miles a day and spends their evenings in community centers, churches and camping. While at FUMC, they introduced themselves to church members and gave a presentation on their mission and the problem of the lack of affordable housing. The team members were then treated to a dinner of fettuccine alfredo and salad. They spent the night in the church gym before leaving early Friday morning for their next stop in Grand Cane in DeSoto Parish. Local physician and Boy Scout leader Dr. Stephen Wheat left the evening’s Scout meeting to hold an impromptu clinic for several of the riders, making it a truly busy night at FUMC.
In addition to their labor at building sites, each rider has to raise funds for his or her journey as well as for the affordable housing cause. There are 10 trips each summer, eight cross country and two shorter coastal rides, giving 300 young people, ages 18-26, the experience of a lifetime. The impressive commitment of the 3,000 plus riders over the years has raised $5.8 million donated to housing charities, 200,000 build site hours and covered 9.5 million miles. It has also brought awareness of housing issues to countless people along the way. The NPJ wishes trip leader Robert Dunn and his team a safe and productive journey. Godspeed ladies and gentlemen!