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Peddling to Alleviate Poverty Housing
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By Betsy Judge - Peddling almost 400 miles across the Midwest between doing community projects is a dream come true for Tierra Verde resident CJ Stevens- Pina.
She is riding to raise money for the Fuller Center for Housing which is a faith-drive non profit that seeks to eradicate poverty housing by promoting partnerships with individuals and community groups to build and rehabilitate homes for people in need.
“It’s an awesome organization; they do work all over the world,” says CJ, about the Fuller Center which was founded in 2005 by Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller and his wife, Linda.
According to CJ, the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure has raised more than $835,000 since 2008 to fight poverty housing. Proceeds from the ride help the Fuller Center in partnership with families in the United States and 17 other countries build or repair their homes through The Fuller Center’s “hand up, not a handout” philosophy. Families pay zero-percent interest, no-profit-made mortgage payments into a Fund for Humanity to help others become homeowners. Able-bodied homeowner partners also perform “sweat equity” in the building of their homes. In the United States alone, more than 95 million people suffer from substandard housing conditions, or are unable to afford safe housing.
A life-long cycling enthusiast, CJ started a riding club in her New Jersey high school and planned 40 and 50 mile rides for the members. “I was an advocate for bicycling as a teenager.” In the 1960’s she joined the League of American Wheelman (now League of American Bicyclists) which began as a movement in 1880 to get roads paved and today is an advocate on the national level for safe cycling and a cycle-friendly nation. She has peddled around the Yucatán Peninsula to points east including Cozumel, the Yukon Trail in Alaska, Switzerland and countless other places. In 2001 she road from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale for AIDS.
She laughs about getting caught riding in the parking garages in Isla when she was prepping for her ride in Switzerland. “It was the only place with something like hills.”
At her age hills are not on her agenda this summer. She picked the Toledo to Waukegan leg of the 9-part trip to avoid them.
“When I did the analysis of topography for the ride, it was the segment that had the least hill climes. I’m not a good hill rider for one, and I’m almost 60,” she says. It is also the portion with the most renovation projects.
“We ride the first three days, then stop and do a community project; ride two more days then do more work until we get to the Chicago area and then my part is done.”
Riders pay around $250 to register. The fee varies depending on the length of their ride and the number of segments. It covers the cost of the van and trailer that follows them in case of problems. The Fuller Center which created the concept of the rides, coordinates with local community partners for meals and lodging.
“When we stop, we have a partner there to provide a place to sleep, usually a gymnasium or fellowship hall. Community members come in and prepare breakfast and dinner, provide us with places to shower, and we talk with them about poverty housing, the Fuller Center, and we witness and talk about our journey.”
In addition to the community service work, riders work to raise funds. She is almost half way to her goal of $2,500. Some riders raise funds for specific projects, but she is doing it for the Fuller Center general fund.
Her company, Parallon, a subsidiary of HCA, is on board with her upcoming ride and her mission trips in general. On one Monday workers who paid $2 toward her cause could wear jeans to work. She was also honored with a company humanitarian award named in honor of HCA founder Bill Frist.
“My company’s really supportive of my mission work. I get an incredible amount of time off.” “My department has over 60 people; I manage 30 of them and the only way that I could do something like this is that they are all doing great jobs and that enables me to go without thinking about it.”
“Being able to do missionary work is expensive and cycling is expensive. One night I was searching the Internet and I found the Fuller Center and I thought, ‘Wow! the two things that I absolutely love to do all wound into one thing. And I have a life-long desire to bicycle across United States so this is the way that I can year by year.”
“I’m looking forward to an adventure that will be physically challenging, but also greatly rewarding as I do my part to fight poverty housing. Every hardworking American family deserves the opportunity to own a simple, decent and safe home. Please join me in the effort to make that opportunity a reality!”
You can learn more about the Fuller Center or contribute directly to CJ’s fundraising effort at www.fullercenter.org. Look for Bicycle Adventure under Join the Movement Tab