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Fundraising cyclists make pit stop in Pahrump

Updated June 26, 2019 - 12:07 pm

A group of orange-clad bicycle riders took a break at the Salvation Army in Pahrump on Friday. Nothing unusual about that, except for the minor fact that they were on the fourth segment of an 11-week, 4,000-mile journey.

The riders were part of the Fuller Center Bike Adventure Parks & Peaks ride, one of several summer rides to raise money and awareness for the Fuller Center for Housing.

“The amazing volunteers who join our ride are just ordinary people trying to do something extraordinary,” said Ryan Iafigliola, the Fuller Center’s vice president of international programs. “Not only are they tackling an immense physical challenge, but they’re directly helping to meet two of the Fuller Center’s biggest needs: funding the work and spreading the word.

“Even better, along the way they will stop and help some Fuller Centers build or repair homes with families in need of a decent place to call home.”

If all of this sounds a lot like Habitat for Humanity, there is a good reason for that. Millard and Linda Fuller, who made their fortune from business ventures with Morris Dees, helped found both organizations after deciding to give up their millions to find a more purposeful life. As did Dees, who went on to found the Southern Poverty Law Center.

They Fullers were there for the creation of what became Habitat for Humanity in 1976 in rural Georgia, and the couple spent 29 years with that organization. For philosophical reasons the executive committee of Habitat for Humanity fired them Jan. 31, 2005, but they remained committed to the cause and by April the first board meeting of the new organization was held.

“We are a totally separate organization from Habitat for Humanity; however, we were founded by the same people and have the same mission, but we take somewhat different approaches and often we work in areas where Habitat cannot,” Iafigliola said.

Another thing both organizations share is the active support of former President Jimmy Carter, who is well known for working on Habitat projects with his wife, Rosalynn, even into their 90s. Millard Fuller and the former president were good friends, and President Bill Clinton awarded Fuller the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996.

Today, the Fuller Center has 75 chapters in 26 states and Puerto Rico and operates in 19 other nations, housing more than 5,000 families. The ecumenical Christian organization’s bike rides have raised more than $2.35 million since they began in 2008, with riders living simply and depending on the hospitality of host churches around the country to keep costs low.

That has enabled the Bike Adventures to maintain an overhead of just 3 percent, meaning 97 percent of donations go to the Fuller Center for Housing, according to the organization.

The bicyclists who arrived Friday at the Salvation Army on Buol Road were taking part in a 4,000-mile trip that began and will end in Portland, Oregon.

Riders who are unable or unwilling to ride the entire trip are invited to join them for individual weekly segments. Segment 1, for example, began May 24 in Portland and ended June 2 at Redwood National Park in California.

National parks are a big part of the itinerary this summer, with the trek including Yosemite, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Arches, Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier national parks as well as Redwood. Cyclists also will visit Fuller Center build sites in Colorado and Idaho, getting the chance to serve the mission of partnership housing on four build days.

The final segment, Segment 11, runs Aug. 4-11 from Spokane, Washington, to Portland. By then, 52 volunteers will have cycled all or part of the trip or been part of the support team for the riders.

Meanwhile, another group is taking part in a ride from Seattle to Washington, D.C. In April, there was a nine-day Natchez Trace ride from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi, with a build day in Houston, Mississippi. A New Year’s Tour de Florida is scheduled for Dec. 27-Jan. 6, with seven riding days, a build day with the Central Florida Fuller Center and plenty of ocean views.

For more information on Bike Adventures or the Fuller Center for Housing in general, visit fullercenter.org

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