Bicycle Adventurers relish opportunity to help people during build days

Bicycle Adventurers relish opportunity to help people during build days

(Photo: Americus-Sumter Fuller Center homeowner partner and frequent volunteer Thad Harris leads cyclists building a wheelchair ramp in Americus, Georgia.)

The Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure’s primary purpose is to help raise funds for The Fuller Center for Housing’s affordable housing ministry — something it has succeeded in doing over the past 10 years to the tune of nearly $2 million.

Related to that mission is spreading awareness about The Fuller Center. Because The Fuller Center does not build or repair homes with government money, it relies on the generosity of individuals, churches and companies to accomplish its work. Naturally, such generosity only comes when people know and appreciate the cause they are supporting.

Several days during the Adventure, there is a bonus mission as riders hop off their bikes and spring into action, building with Fuller Center covenant partners across the United States. The cross-country summer ride — which has less than one week remaining on its 3,600-mile, two-month journey from San Francisco to Savannah — was busy with its fifth build day of the ride Monday in Americus, Georgia, birthplace of the world’s affordable housing movement. Tomorrow, they will have their sixth and final build day of the ride in Albany, Georgia.

“It’s a full-circle blessing — to bless someone else blesses us.” — Wes Shattuck, cyclist from New Hampshire

For Oklahoma City’s Macy Holsinger, who is riding for the third straight year, the Adventure would not be complete without these build days.

“It’s like you pour cement in a hole, but really it’s the water that makes it form,” she explained from a site where she and several other cyclists were adding a much-needed wheelchair ramp to the home of Frank Angry. “The biking is the framework, but then the build days kinda put it all together and tie it into something more concrete, literally.”

Also working at the Angry house was New Hampshire’s Wes Shattuck, who has been riding with wife Cheryl on his first Bicycle Adventure at age 65.

“It’s a full-circle blessing — to bless someone else blesses us,” he said. “We receive something as a group that’s a little different when we come to the build sites, a sense of accomplishment not just of moving as a group but creating something as a group. That’s really cool.”

Across town, other cyclists — including Colorado’s Jennifer Wells — are working with the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center for Housing, which is converting a vacant second floor above its office into transitional housing.

“I’m walking in my faith when I’m helping others.” — Jennifer Wells, cyclist from Colorado

“The build days for me are a way of helping someone else,” said Wells, who is participating in her fourth straight Bicycle Adventure. “I love to help people out. It’s heartwarming, it’s fulfilling and it’s a way for me to be more Christ-like or Christian. I’m walking in my faith when I’m helping others. It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of this experience because that makes it more personal.”

While fans circulated fresh air through the upper area of Americus-Sumter’s office, the cyclists at the Angry home worked in the sunshine with Monday’s low humidity and relatively tame 88-degree high temperature providing a welcome break from weeks of oppressive heat and humidity in Georgia.

“This is wonderful,” Shattuck said. “Believe me, we are thankful for it. This feels more like my New Hampshire home in July.”

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The Bicycle Adventure is nearing the all-time
fundraising mark of $2 million. Click here to help
them reach this year’s ambitious goal!

Cross-country ride leader Henry Downes talks Saturday after the riders arrived in Americus, Georgia:

There is more to some housing projects than first meets the eye

There is more to some housing projects than first meets the eye

Last week, I spent a little time with Mr. Earnest Solomon of Americus, Georgia. At 78, he still gets around his home fairly well. It almost makes you wonder why he needed a wheelchair ramp added to his home.

Actually, he didn’t. It was for his wife, Evelyn. As her health declined with her children living far away, they asked the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center for Housing if they could build a ramp for her.

“They were concerned about her falling,” said my friend Thad Harris, who is confined to a wheelchair himself and lives in a specially designed, ultra-accessible Fuller Center home of his own and who has become one of The Fuller Center’s most prolific volunteers as well as a local board member. “So, we agreed to help.”

Sadly, Evelyn passed away in February of this year. But the children asked if they could still tackle the project for Earnest before he lost mobility.

“They did a great job,” Earnest Solomon said of the volunteers who built the ramp behind his home.

“They’re looking out for me farther down the line — just in case,” Mr. Solomon said. “I’m a diabetic, so you never know. Plus, I’m getting up there in age, too.”

On the surface, a ramp project may not seem like a very big deal. But ramps like these allow many disabled and elderly residents to stay in the homes they love rather than moving in with relatives or into assisted-living facilities.

The Fuller Center builds new homes and repairs existing ones. We work with families to provide a better life for their children, with middle-aged formerly homeless folks who are putting their lives back together and with many seniors, including the disabled and veterans.

Maybe a ramp seems like a big deal to me because I saw how my grandfather struggled with mobility. He lost his legs to a German machine-gunner in Tunisia in 1943 as a member of the legendary 1st Ranger Battalion (“Darby’s Rangers”). First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote about him, Cpl. Fred Dixon, in this column from Feb. 21, 1944, and this one from Feb. 25, 1944. He won a prize for selling war bonds on a national radio show and got to spend time with the first family at the White House, even having dinner with the family and going with them to see a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra.

In the decades that followed, life grew tougher for my grandfather. He went from war hero to forgotten veteran. Parking spaces for the disabled and wheelchair ramps were few and far between. They’ve become a far more common sight since he died in 1981. That’s great to see.

But there are those who still feel trapped in their inadequate homes. There are those who fear that the rotting floor in the bathroom will lead to a life-altering fall or that the leak in the roof will ultimately lead to their home’s demise.

I’d like to thank all of The Fuller Center’s financial supporters whose gifts have helped hundreds of good people like Mr. Solomon and Thad be comfortable in the homes they love. I’d also like to thank the volunteers who have worked on these kinds of projects, including those from Congregational United Church of Christ of St. Charles, Illinois, who helped Mr. Solomon on this project.

There are few things more exciting than seeing a team of volunteers raise that first wall on a brand new house where children will grow and have a strong foundation for success. But there are also few things more gratifying than hearing these two words from people like Mr. Solomon, who will get to stay in the homes they’ve grown to love over the years:

“THANK YOU!”

Please enjoy this slideshow of volunteers from Congregational UCC working on Mr. Solomon’s ramp:

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