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Group bikes across America to support affordable housing
habitat bikers
FOUR WOMEN RIDERS from Habitat for Humanitys Bike and Build summer riding team arrived at North Crawford School on Wednesday, July 19, tired, but happy. Milwaukees Casey Eisenpeich, one of the riders is pictured second from left.

GAYS MILLS - Affordable housing is something that many people can struggle to attain, especially in the United States. A group of college students are biking across the country to raise awareness of the need for affordable housing and the need to build houses for the less unfortunate.

The program, ‘Bike and Build,’ has been around since 2003. It’s continued for the sake of civic encouragement. On Wednesday, July 12, the group of bikers with the affordable housing message, stopped to rest for the night at North Crawford School. Around 4:30 p.m., the first two bikers arrived. Both exhausted, sweaty and ready for a meal.

While waiting for 34 more bikers to arrive, it only seemed right to ask a few questions about details of their own experience with Bike and Build.

Marko Lazin, 26, from New York, was delighted to share his insight and his reasons for joining Bike and Build.

“Well it really gives attention to the organization,” Lanzin explained.

As a kid, he was a Boy Scout so his love for travel also played a part. Before Marko started this journey, he expected the biking to be a challenge at times, which is was.

“It’s hard, you really have to take a mental approach,” Marko said of the experience.

To make more sense of the physicality involved, for training you are required to bike 500 miles before setting out on the cross-country journey.

From the group of bikers, Marko noticed the lack of diversity amongst all the college kids and wished otherwise. However, he was glad to be helping people as a team and working with people with the same values.

What stunned the New Yorker most about this area was the landscape. He seemed at a loss for words but uttered, “gorgeous” as he compared the area to where he’s from-New York. With lots of smiles and a sense of accomplishment, Marko went to finish his stretching.

Sam Gervase, Davenport, Iowa, was also excited to share his experience and why he joined Bike and Build.

“Well, it’s a great way to meet people,” Gervase said.

He had also heard about Bike and Build through friends at Boston College, who had done Bike and Build missions in the past. He rode his bike every day to and from work to prepare him. To say the least, he was experienced and appeared very athletic.

Gervase also commented how fascinated he was about this area and was very surprised by the generosity of the people. Sam described a bike journey where a sudden thunderstorm shook the sky and a woman driving by saw him and a couple of his friends getting soaked. Without hesitation the lady offered them a ride.

Sam made an important statement about Bike and Build’s mission.

“Addressing non-affordable housing in the United States makes it easier to fix,” Sam Gervase said.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports that 10.3 million individuals and families or 1 out of 4 rental households in the U.S. fall into this category. Many of these people spend over 50 percent of their incomes on housing, meaning they have few funds left over for basic nutritional, medical and education needs.

During the bike journey to build houses and spread awareness, Sam really loves the team astrosphere.

“You help people and people help you,” Sam explained.

About 30 minutes later, a group of bikers came through the door—drained of energy and thankful for an air-conditioned building. One just-arrived biker however was pleased to share her insight. 

Casey Eisenpeich from Milwaukee heard about Bike and Build through Word-of-Mouth and other organizations. She became involved because it was everything she loved to do combined. Since Casey is from Milwaukee, a place closer to home, she very well described this area as, “Coming home.”

“It was a very proud moment,” Casey recalled.

Casey added her experience so far has been amazing. She really loves ‘build day’ because the people exchange stories and she gets to see the change in their life after helping them.  She also enjoys being a part of the Bike and Build group.

“I’ve only known this group of people for three weeks, but it seems like a lot longer,” Casey said.

The Milwaukee woman went into this with no expectations.

“Yeah it was like…I’m just riding a bike,” she said.

Before setting off with Bike and Build, Casey rode her bike to school or work every day and it got easier for her each time.

The importance of this journey for her was raising awareness of the extreme lack of affordable homes. Casey wants to make it easy for people to live and keep them in their homes.

A home is affordable if payments plus taxes and basic utilities does not exceed 30 percent of a household’s gross income, according to Bike and Build.

As another group of exhausted bikers entered the building, their expressions seemed as if they were easing back into reality. The journey may be hard for the bikers, but the outcome will sure make things a lot easier for those in need of affordable housing.

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