Riders stop in Darlington on fundraising ride across the country

A lot of people dream of traveling across the country. Not many envision that journey on the seat of a bicycle but that is exactly what one group is doing, raising money along the way.

The Fuller Center for Housing offers Bike Adventures several times a year to help raise money for their projects. This year, the organization is celebrating its 10th year and raising the fundraising bar to a record of $400,000. If that mark is reached, the all-time fundraising will have reached over $2 million.

A group of riders recently took a pit stop at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Darlington on Aug. 1, having ridden 77 miles from Southern Pines. They resumed their ride on Aug. 2, heading 90 miles to Monck’s Corner.

Ride liaison Jessica McLain said that each year the group is pretty diverse.

“You get a mix of riders,” McLain said. “You have a lot of retired people and then people who are teachers, which works out really nicely. Some of them are only here for a week or so and just took time off of work. A lot of our whole-way riders you’ll find that teachers, retirees and students are a big part of the group. Then you have anomalies: last summer we actually had a lady quit her job to come with us.”

McClain said that meeting the record fundraising goal relies solely on the riders.

“Raising money is on a totally individual basis but a lot of them raise it from friends and family,” McClain said. “We have little fun competitions to motivate them and make it fun for them. Some people have silent auctions or other things like that but more often than not, it’s from friends and family donating.”

The ride fundraising supports the housing ministry, which builds nationally and internationally.

“We are a Christian affordable housing ministry based in Americus, Georgia,” McClain said. “We build and repair homes in about 60 American communities and then 20 countries worldwide; we built in 18 of those last year. Right now the biggest project that we have is we have an 86 home village going up in El Salvador right now. That is one of the big projects that money can go towards.”

Riders can designate their funds to specific Fuller Centers if they choose to.

“We had a rider that was with us the first two weeks and he actually started a center in Nashville, Tennessee,” McClain said. “He designated all of his funds to go to the center that he runs. Different riders have different causes on their heart. A lot of them are returning riders so if they have designated the funds they will probably go to the same place. Most funds are undesignated and so they go to where they are most needed.”

Group leader Connor Ciment said that his relationship with the Fuller Center started as a desire to ride across the country but changed into something else along the way.

“Back in 2015, I was graduating college and I just wanted to ride my bike across the country,” Ciment said. “I didn’t know much about the organization but I knew it was a good way to do it and, in the process, give back to folks. The first week of the trip, I fell in love with the way in which the Fuller Center reaches people and the way in which the Bike Adventure is able to get the word out, raise funds but also build side-by-side with families. That experience totally changed my life. Instead of going to take a job, I’ve been volunteering with the Fuller Center ever since.”

Ciment said that the way the Fuller Center works is really inspiring.

“The Center’s partnership housing model, to me, is one of the most beautiful ways to reach people who need a hand up,” Ciment said. “In the process of building the home, we require people to put in some sweat equity. A lot of times that brings people out of their comfort zone but it gives them an amazing sense of ownership in the home in the process. Whatever they are able to pitch in, whether it be bringing the workers water, whatever they can do is great because they are still a part of the process.”

The Fuller Center allows people to realize the American dream while also paying it forward.

“The connection that they have with the people who are volunteering to build their homes is really strong,” Ciment said. “The process of repayment, having them set up a mortgage on terms they can afford and repay the cost of the building material with no interest over time, is an opportunity for them to complete the ownership cycle and also gives the opportunity for a hand-up to another family.”

Author: mrollins

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