A group of 25 dedicated bicycling enthusiasts, participants in an organization known as the Fuller Center Bike Adventure, recently stopped in Hammond to assist in repairing homes still in need of help from damage caused by last year’s Hurricane Ida.
The stop in Hammond was a break from the bicycle ride that started in Panama City, Florida, on Feb. 25 and is anticipated to end in Galveston, Texas, on March 13. During their stay in Hammond the riders assisted in building projects being pursued by the Ginger Ford Northshore — The Fuller Center for Housing, the organization that builds and repairs homes for those in need in Tangipahoa and Eastern Livingston Parishes.
Neil Mullikan, a spokesman for the group, said the cyclists also plan a three-day stop in Sulphur to assist in restoring residences that are still in need of repair caused by two hurricanes that struck several years ago.
Mullikan said his team covers an average of 77 miles a day when they are on the road. “We do this because we enjoy riding together and above all using our joy of cycling to raise funds and awareness of the need that many have for housing. At the same time, we enjoy being together and the friendships that we make while we are on the road,” he said. The riders raise funds for housing through donations from friends, family, churches and businesses who are willing to support the Fuller Center mission, Mullikan said.
Before embarking on one of their rides, the cyclists plan their routes where they can use bike trails, back roads and sometimes major highways, Mullikan said, adding that their routes always include planned stops where local Fuller Center groups can use assistance in building new houses or repairing those that have been damaged.
While on the road, Mullikan said, the riders stay in churches at night. “We live very simply...we sleep on floors and cots...wherever we can find lodging,” he said. While in Hammond, the cyclists were housed at the First Christian Church and the First Presbyterian Church. On their first night in Hammond local volunteers prepared a meal for the riders at the First Christian Church. A van accompanies the riders and carries their bedding, clothes and tools that they use while working on houses at their planned stops.
The Fuller Center Bike Adventure is focused on serving God and each other to raise money for families around the world building and repairing homes through the Fuller Center for Housing, Mullikan explained. He said, “one does not have to be a believer to ride with us, but at the same time, most of our riders benefit from participation through sharing Christ’s love for all people. That is what we are called to do on this mission...to share Christ’s love wherever we go.”
Mullikan said the advantages of riding bicycles are many. “When you are cycling, you are close to your surroundings. You can see the beauty of the world all around you. On the road, we meet people who are beautiful and wonderful and we get to meet people who are engaged and willing to help others. Being a part of this is something of a relief from the negative things that do happen in our world,” he said.
The Fuller Center Bike Adventure started in 2008 and since then has sponsored many rides. Mullikan said he has been on six of the rides and participated in a ride that went from Slidell to Cleveland, Ohio. That ride was billed as a trip from Lake Pontchartrain to Lake Erie. The trek took riders through the Mississippi Delta, up the Natchez Trace and then through bike trails that led to Ohio.
This summer some of the group that visited Hammond are planning to make a bicycle ride from Oregon to Maine. Mullikan said that ride will take about 10 weeks. He said that potential riders for such a long trip are college students, teachers who have the summer off and retirees who just enjoy long bicycle rides. Fred Smoak, 70, a retiree, was among the group on the ride through Southeast Louisiana. He said that age has not been a factor in his participation in the long Fuller Adventure rides.
Greeting the riders on their arrival in Hammond were Tamara Danel, who for many years was executive director of the local Fuller Center organization, and Stacey Morris, who is the Fuller Center Disaster Rebuilders director. Morris worked directly with the cyclists volunteers.
Danel, who remains involved with the Fuller Center in Hammond, said her group was excited to welcome the Bike Adventure team to Hammond.
"Not only will they help us with some projects, but they bring awareness of the need for housing assistance to our community," Danel said. "These are exceptional men who are really dedicated to the Fuller Center mission and we very much enjoy what their visit means to our local efforts. Visiting and working with this exceptional group has been most interesting and a boost for our local Fuller Center group.”