This summer, Erin Potter’07 will bike across the continental United States, raising money for affordable housing and stopping regularly to build homes along the way.
Potter (pictured above with a fellow Beloiter) is a volunteer trip leader for Bike & Build, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for housing groups, garnering media and community attention for the affordable housing cause, and getting young people engaged in the work of social change. In the last eight years, the organization has contributed over $3.3 million to affordable housing initiatives.
Potter will help lead a group of 32 young adults in a 3,949 mile cross-country bike ride. They will set out from Providence, R.I., on June 13 and roll into Seattle, Wash., on Aug. 21.
Each cyclist on the trip must raise $4,500 dollars before their tires ever hit the road. These funds are directed toward affordable housing groups of the riders’ choice, and help fund the trip itself.
“Some of the riding will be tough,” says Potter. “We’re heading East to West, meaning we’re biking into the wind—and there are a few mountains in this great country of ours. But there’s something I really like about that. The support I’ve received from my community, friends, and family will definitely help me through the rough days, whatever they may bring.”
Potter and three other trip leaders have been calling ahead to community members on their route, arranging food and lodging, and securing showers for exhausted riders. So far, the team has managed to secure their crew a horseback ride on a Wyoming ranch, a laser light show on a dam in Idaho, and several community potlucks.
Potter’s experience at Beloit College inspired her, and enabled her to get involved with affordable housing right after graduation. A double major in sociology and religious studies, she took classes that allowed her to look closer at society and question the status quo. She was active in the Peace and Justice Club, and participated in the college’s Duffy Program.
Another formative experience for Potter was a trip to New Orleans to help repair homes after Hurricane Katrina.
“These interactions gave me a taste of how truly foundational housing is to neighborhoods, communities, and cities,” says Potter. “With their homes destroyed, communities unraveled. The path back to a functioning community started with a safe, decent, and affordable place to live.”
After graduating, Potter took an AmeriCorps VISTA position with the Chicago Rehab Network, a coalition of affordable housing groups from all over Chicago. Potter still works for the RCN, and also volunteers with the Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, her neighborhood’s affordable housing and development organization.
Potter was inspired to lead a Bike & Build trip after a cycling tour last summer with fellow Beloiter Max Bielenberg’07. She signed up as a trip leader and started working to raise the $4,500 required from each rider. As of this writing, she is only $660 away from her goal.
To follow the cyclists’ progress this summer, check out the 2012 Route Tracker on www.bikeandbuild.org for blog entries, a real-time map, photos, and more. To support Potter with a donation, visit her profile page at http://bikeandbuild.org/rider/5577. Trip updates can also be found on her Twitter at www.twitter.com/coastdaylight.