Bike & Build travels to build affordable homes


Courtesy of Bike & Build

The 2018 Bike & Build team stopped to take a group photo in Jacksonville, Florida, while traveling across the country to build affordable housing.

Megan Behnke, News Writer

The non-profit organization Bike & Build benefits affordable housing by having young adults bike across the country and build homes for those in need.

Bike & Build operates cross-country and regional cycling trips for service-minded young adults to raise money and awareness for affordable housing.

This year alone, riders donated nearly $140,000 to affordable-housing organizations across the United States.

Bike & Build Program Director Casey Eisenreich said Bike & Build started in 2003 and is based on the old Habitat Bicycle Challenge program that raised funds for Habitat for Humanity.

“Our founder, Marc Bush, had previously done trips with Habitat Bicycle Challenge,” Eisenreich said. “And when that organization disbanded, he created Bike & Build to continue the idea of cross country cycling trips that benefit affordable housing.”

Eisenreich said she estimates that the 132 Bike & Build riders have helped construct and renovate over 1,300 new homes, which will be available for those in need in 2018.

Bike & Build member, Megan Althus travels through the mountains, celebrating Earth Day.
Courtesy of Bike & Build
Bike & Build member, Megan Althus travels through the mountains, celebrating Earth Day.

Director of Outreach Lily Goldberg said she is proud of what the participants accomplished over the summer.

“Not only did they contribute their volunteered time and fundraised dollars to help build homes for low-income families, they brought awareness to an issue that impacts millions of Americans,” Goldberg said.

Eisenreich said Bike & Build is an amazing experience because riders come out of their summers with a great understanding of not only affordable housing, but also how different communities are across the country.

“Honestly it is the community you are immersed in that makes it so special,” Eisenreich said. “You see fantastic sights, experience the true kindness of strangers, get fed at great church potlucks, learn how different affordable housing looks across the country, have roadside dance parties, and come away with a group of 32 people that are now your family.”

UW Oshkosh alumnus rider Dan Tanner said he participated because he wanted to do something more personally engaging in a non-academic way.

“In people I disagreed with fundamentally, I recognized traits that I respected immensely,” Tanner said. “That was my one take away from the ride – to look for the best in people, to never write off a relationship and to make a friendship I develop in a personal challenge to better myself.”

Goldberg said that each rider fundraises at least $5,000 to participate and they go to different construction sites throughout the trip.

“While on the road, teams stop every fourth or fifth day to volunteer on a build-site with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together and YouthBuild,” Goldberg said.

Each cross-country trip engages 30 young adults to pedal their bikes from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific over a 10-week period.

Eisenreich said the construction sites are chosen by the leaders of each trip. Each leader is responsible for coordinating two weeks of the trip, which entails securing overnight host locations, meals, showers and build sites.

“We often work with a lot of Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together affiliates across the country,” Eisenreich said. “But we also encourage our leaders to connect with smaller, more local non-profit organizations with unique approaches to the affordable housing cause.”

Riders pedal an average of 70 miles per day, sleeping at night on the floors of churches and community centers and eating donated meals from generous community hosts.

Bike & Build 2018 Trip Leader, Sydney Arvin, works hard volunteering to build homes with Habitat for Humanity in Lexington, Kentucky.
Courtesy of Bike & Build
Bike & Build 2018 Trip Leader, Sydney Arvin, works hard volunteering to build homes with Habitat for Humanity in Lexington, Kentucky.

Goldberg said Bike & Build riders are the next generation of leaders in their communities.

“Their cross-country journey represents the powerful result of mixing compassion with determination,” Goldberg said.
Tanner said the secret to biking across the nation is to just have commitment.

“Step one: start peddling and eat as much as you can,” Tanner said. “Those things in life that seem impossible or difficult just take a bit of commitment.”

Eisenreich said trips usually have 32 riders with four cross country and two regional trips planned in 2019.

“All of our cross country trips are comprised of young adults ages 18-26, while our Keys to Canada trip has an age limit of 18-30,” Eisenreich said. “Each trip has four leaders, and our leaders are 18-29.”

Another UWO alumnus rider, Karla Sordia, said that after doing Bike & Build, it made her even more involved in her community.

“I’m passionate not only about affordable housing, but also about what happens after people get a new home,” Sordia said. “That trip increased my curiosity about affordable housing in millions of ways.”

Eisenreich said she learned both about herself and her leadership, as well as the country she lives in, from her Bike & Build experience. Eisenreich said she took a lot of what she learned on her trip as far as leadership, organization and trip experience into her position.

“We constantly had to be flexible, think on our feet, encourage each other, and learn to function as a team,” Eisenreich said. “In my current position as a program director, I help to manage and supervise our leader teams, who coordinate these riders for our many rides.”