For most students, summer break means a time to mix fun in the sun with working or interning in order to further their careers. For Meghan Garrett, junior psychology major, this summer break means a chance to make a difference in the lives of others across America.
This summer, Garrett will bike coast to coast across the central United States in order to raise money and awareness for Bike & Build, a charitable organization focused on providing affordable housing.
“Bike & Build’s slogan is ‘Pedaling to End Poverty Housing,’ and that’s our main mission,” Garrett said. “We believe that everyone has the right to sufficient and safe living conditions, and we feel that providing low-cost home ownership to those families in need is a step in the right direction.”
Garrett found out about Bike & Build from two friends who participated in last year’s summer trip. After seeing photographs of their journey and hearing about their experiences, she knew she had to get involved.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to not only see the U.S. in a unique way, but also to help out so many families and communities,” she said. “I obviously thought about my decision for a long time as Bike & Build is a huge commitment, but now that my trip is less than two months away, I know I made the right one.”
According to Garrett, since Bike & Build was founded three years ago, the organization has raised close to $450,000 for affordable housing groups and projects. Bike & Build plans to raise another $300,000 this year alone, which will be allocated to housing projects along the various biking routes.
Bike & Build is sponsoring five different trips this summer, and Garrett will be participating in a central United States route that will begin on May 18 and conclude on July 23. During that period, she will travel through 13 states: Virgina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon.
Each night, the bikers will stop in different churches or community centers that have agreed to house them. In certain locations, the bikers will stop for several days in order to assist in the construction of affordable homes. But according to Garrett, the press that the bikers receive can be just as important as the physical aid that they provide.
“As we ride and participate in ‘builds,’ we also attract a lot of media and community attention to the need and importance of affordable housing,” she said. “Through newspaper articles, TV segments, town hall meetings with community leaders and informal interactions with those we meet along the way, we promote our message in over 32 states and to thousands of people. So basically, we help fund local housing projects and groups which we participate in while on the road, and we help spread public awareness about the need for affordable housing.”
In order to participate in a Bike & Build trip, each rider is required to raise $4,000, most of which goes toward local housing groups, such as Habitat for Humanity, that involve both students and adults.
“It’s like a grant program, because they send us an application, and we help fund their efforts,” Garrett said. “A portion of the money we raise also goes to the housing organizations and projects that we will participate in during the trip (which may be different from the groups funded by the grants). Either way, the majority of the $4,000 goes directly to ending poverty housing through supporting these groups and projects.”
A small portion of the money raised by the bikers also goes toward funding the trip, and is used to provide bikes, meals, supplies and housing.
At this time, Garrett has raised $1,500.
“I still have a long way to go,” she said.
Garrett, a community advisor, is currently holding a coin collection competition in Decker Hall to benefit Bike & Build. She will also have a table in Eickhoff Hall and Brower Student Center to collect donations beginning in April.
Although it may take some work to raise her remaining funds, Garrett knows that it will all be worth it.
“I chose to work with B&B, because I believe that everyone not only deserves a place to call ‘home’, but they deserve to feel proud of and safe in that place as well,” Garrett said. “Having a sufficient home can change someone’s life in so many ways, and I want to be part of something that provides this for families in need. And, unlike donating money to research or participating in a local organization, which are both very good ways to contribute to charity, Bike & Build offers me a way to actually get my hands dirty and be physically (and emotionally) involved in helping to change people’s lives all across the country.”
For more information about Bike & Build, which is still accepting applications for summer trips, visit bikeandbuild.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to make a donation, e-mail Meghan Garrett at email@example.com.