By Carolyn Dvorak – DRBC Member

Ramon Martinez, a Sociology student at Viterbo University, is joining a group of 32 bicyclists riding from Charleston, S.C. to Santa Cruz, CA.  They are part of a non-profit organization called Bike and Build, an organization located in Philadelphia, PA.  The staff of three includes two program directors and an executive director.  Their mission is to raise money and awareness for affordable housing and also to create a life time of service in young adults by using cross country cycling trips as the vehicle.

Ramon, who grew up in Firebaugh, CA, came to La Crosse from Sacramento University.       He has participated in many community service projects as part of his scholarship program.  AmeriCorps has been instrumental in providing him with opportunities to work with non-profit organizations, building the groundwork for service work, and connecting him with energetic people.  These experiences have given him the background to take on a new kind of commitment.

“It is exciting to take on this new challenge,” said Ramon.  “It will give me the opportunity to combine two of my passions; service work and an endurance sport.”  Each cyclist must raise $4,000 before the start of the trip.  The money covers the expense of being on the road, administrative costs, and the rest is put into grants to fund affordable housing projects. The riders are given a bicycle toward the end of their fundraising that they can keep after the trip.  Ramon’s trip will cover 4, 161 miles.  His trip, from May 23 rd to August11th will last 81 days and will include sixteen building days and four days of rest.

Bike and Build has eight routes across the country.  Over the last eight seasons, Bike and Build has raised 2.7 million dollars, pedaled over five million miles, spent over 80,000 hours building houses, and engaged over 1,250 young adults spreading the word about the affordable housing crisis in America.   Over 5.1 million families have the “worst-case” housing needs in which they endure overcrowded conditions and/or live in deficient housing.  Over 13 million Americans pay over 50% of their income toward their housing.

The cyclists will spread their message in each town they visit.  They will also spend some time teaching bicycle safety to kids.  Ramon’s group will work with the Pike’s Peak Habitat for Humanity in Colorado Springs on a Blitz Build.  They will build an entire house on the foundation laid the week before by the North Carolina to San Diego Route.   In other towns, they will work with affordable housing organizations’ ongoing building projects.

With less than two weeks left, Ramon still has to raise $1,000 in order to take the trip.  Ramon

is thrilled about the adventure of taking the ride, but he is also looking forward to the challenge of the building and the satisfaction that comes with giving.   In the end, it may be less about bicycling and more about the people he helps on the way.  If you would like to help Ramon, spread the message about the affordable housing crisis in America, visit www.bikeandbuild.org and consider making a donation to this worthy cause.

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