by Leah Spurlin
Today marks our last build day on this year’s bike ride. It’s kind of bittersweet as I look back over the 8 weeks full of accumulating miles, drastic changes in landscape in each region, all the people we met along the way, and mostly the 9 build days we had. Those build days gave us a “day off” of our bike saddle. It’s a time we gave back and worked towards the purpose of the Fuller Center, the root of why we ride every day.
I remember the first build day we had in Atlantic City, New Jersey.We were still strangers to each other. Now I look around at all the faces and am grateful that they are such a huge part of me. I know their stories, their struggles, their praises, and most of all their giving hearts. I looked forward to all the build days for several reasons. On these days we got to work with people we normally don’t see throughout the day. There are some cyclists in the group that have faster paces than I do so I only see them off the road. These days allowed me to spend the majority of the day with a variety of people. I also enjoy the manual labor, the learning of new skills, and feeling humbled after each build.
From spackling walls in Atlantic City, to moving boxes and picking up trash on a Kensington, PA block, to laying laminate and cleaning out a hoarder’s basement in Aurora, OH, to painting the entire interior of the Jones’s home in Toledo, OH, to starting the Blitz Build by cleaning overgrowth in Gary, IN on Jackson Street, to scrubbing mold off a basement wall in Waukegan, IL, to pulling weeds, painting a Veteran’s home, and a pick-up baseball game in Porcupine, SD, to stripping and tediously tearing off shingles by shovel and hammer while roped in off a roof in Kellogg, ID, to mopping floors, sorting through eggs, and pulling weeds at a food kitchen in Clarkston, WA…these are some of the memories that will remain forever. The conversations with the home owners, the joy and tears shed from Katherine Jackson and Roy and Dolores Jones, the “heroes” in North Chicago, and the high fives and smiles from the boys at the Indian Reservation. These days have shaped my heart and deepened my understanding of what being a true servant really means.
Today we had our largest number of bikers and other volunteers – around 40 people. The local Fuller Center and Interlink had 7 project sites lined up for us. Thanks to their organization and planning I believe we had a very productive day where everyone was able to accomplish a lot throughout Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, WA. We were able to build and restore 6 wheelchair ramps, work on some landscaping projects, paint, build handrails, and work in a food bank. Despite temperatures in the 100s all the groups came back with such an uplifting, positive spirit as we shared the tasks that were accomplished, the skills learned, interactions with home owners, and a sense of completion as the last build day for this ride ended.
The night was topped off with a visit to downtown Lewiston where there was live music, some dancing, a beautiful sunset, a spectacular lightning show, and good conversations with locals. We have been blessed by the members of the Evangelical Presbyterian church and other local churches for feeding us and allowing us to sleep on beds and floors! There are so many amazing, good hearted, and giving people all over this country!