Fuller Center bicyclists join with locals to fix residences

by SOPHIE KRUSE | REPORTER Published:

Aurora -- Around 50 volunteers from as close as Aurora and as far away as Australia came together June 17 to help repair area homes and help community members who are unable to do the repairs themselves.

Aurora-based volunteer group Neighbor2Neighbor paired with the Fuller Center Bike Adventure to do repairs on seven homes in the Chagrin Falls Park area of Bainbridge Township.

Neighbor2Neighbor is a faith-based organization based in Aurora that helps others by improving homes. It is a partner of the Fuller Center for Housing, a Christian organization that helps improve housing conditions of low-income home owners that was formed by Millard Fuller, the creator of Habitat for Humanity.

The organization partnered with the Fuller Center Bike Adventure, where riders bicycle from coast to coast, stopping along the way to show people hands-on what the Fuller Center does.

The trip, in its seventh year, spent a day in Aurora -- 500 miles into its 3,600-mile trip from Atlantic City, N.J., to Astoria, Ore. The group began its trip June 5 and plans to arrive in Astoria on Aug. 10. The ride has raised more than $950,000 in the past six years for the fight against poverty.

The 35 bikers on the trip met up with about 15 volunteers from the Aurora area involved with Neighbor2Neighbor to do the home repairs.

As an organization. Neighbor2Neighbor provides a variety of repairs for eligible homeowners, ranging from painting to accessibility modifications, and has members from Christ Community Chapel, the Church in Aurora and Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

The group receives funding through a variety of different sources, including the Aurora One Fund, Rotary Club of Aurora and churches and individuals.

"WE PURCHASE supplies that we need to fix up the houses, and we ask the homeowners to pay it forward," said Walter Chapman, board chair of Neighbor2Neighbor. "We usually do about 10 to 12 projects a year. We're knocking out seven in one day."

Other repair sites for the bike crew included homes still recovering from Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and homes at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

"We want the owners to be part of the project. We try to make it an empowerment project," said Melissa Merrill, the bike trip leader, who is originally from Perry, Ohio. The group asks that homeowners are present during the repairs so they can learn skills and hopefully be able to do their own repairs in the future.

Merrill had gone on the bike trip during college, and in 2010 was on the trip that went through Aurora. Now, she volunteers full time with the Adventure. The group gathers riders from all ages and abilities who join the ride for a variety of reasons.

"I wanted to bike across America for 35 years," said John Herbert, a cyclist from Maine. "But it's so much more than that."

Herbert had planned to cycle only for a small portion at the beginning of the trip, but now plans to complete the entire route because he has enjoyed it so much.

Gerry McCusker traveled all the way from Australia to join the trip. "I was looking for something to combine cycling and spirituality," he said.

Many cyclists also joined the trip for small segments of the ride. Since many of the bikers are from the Cleveland area, many friends and family members joined the group June 18 on their ride from Aurora to Cleveland.

The cyclists stayed at the Church in Aurora overnight, where they were treated to dinner. They were also able to make a presentation to Aurora residents about the Fuller Center.

Email: skruse@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4159

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