Hello from Duluth, Minnesota! Our Northern US team has hit the halfway mark, which is hard to believe given that time seems irrelevant now. (All we know is mileage.) Here's a rundown of our Build Days:
In Michigan, we partnered with Well House in Grand Rapids. Well House focuses on not just affordable housing but food security as well. One of the project managers was a Bike and Build alum, one of many living in Grand Rapids currently.
Next up, we biked to South Bend, Indiana, home of Notre Dame University. We worked with Nexus House by clearing out an old house that used to be an education center. We emptied the house of literally thousands of books – think Readers Digest from 1951, GRE test books, and children's stories. The plan was to transform the house into a halfway home for ex-convicts. I was also happy to see some family friends in South Bend as well – thanks again for the ice cream, Phil and Julie!
We then made our way to Madison, Wisconsin and helped Habitat for Humanity, fixing up some single family homes by priming the walls and installing drywall. Madison itself was beautiful and pretty easy to bike around.
Following Madison, we biked up the Mississippi River to Onalaska, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, our Build Day was rained out after about an hour of work. But before that happened, we began framing a single family house in a low-income part of La Crosse (a college town 15 minutes south of Onalaska) with another Habitat chapter. Some of us also worked with local teens to build toolboxes as a community building activity.
After that, we crossed over to Minnesota to St. Paul to work with ReBuilding Together. Unfortunately, both of the projects they had planned for us didn't work out (one homeowner died and the other was foreclosed on – both events happening within a week of one another), so we painted their office building.
Even though some of our Build Days haven't worked out, this trip has been pretty stellar so far. Some memorable moments include celebrating Christmas in July, support and love from Bike and Build alumns, fellow cyclists who ride with us on occasion, and seeking out information on affordable housing from various places we bike through.
I'll try to write more often if time permits!