Lily Goldberg and Dustin Miller have been preoccupied with numbers lately, and they stack up like this: 4,234 miles in 83 days.
Along with other college-aged people, they will pedal through 11 states and only break for three days.
The trip starts in 58 days.
Goldberg and Miller have been fundraising and preparing for their trip with Bike & Build, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization founded in 2002. Through cross-country bike trips, the organization aims to increase awareness of America’s affordable housing crisis.
“Obviously there is still a lack of affordable housing, so that’s why it continues year after year,” said Miller, a freshman actuarial science major and Lancaster, Pennsylvania native. “The reason why nonprofit organizations like this exist is because there are those societal problems that exist. Attention needs to be brought to them.”
Throughout the trip, Goldberg and Miller, along with other volunteers, will stop their trip to participate in “build” days. On build days, participants help to build homes with existing organizations, like Habitat for Humanity.
“I thought it was a cool idea,” Miller said. “You can combine something as great as helping underprivileged people across the United States with biking across the country, which is something I love to do. I love to bike. I felt like it was a perfect marriage.”
Bike & Build runs eight of these trips each summer, with approximately 250 young adults, ages 18-28, behind the handlebars.
Goldberg and Miller will begin in Charleston, South Carolina and end in Santa Cruz, California on May 25. In preparation for the summer, each of the bikers is required to raise $4,500 and be physically capable of biking up to 116 miles a day.
Goldberg, a sophomore, said that though she often bikes the city streets, this is her first long-distance biking trip.
“I feel OK about my fundraising and reaching out to people, and in training, I’m getting there,” she said. “I’m definitely worried about the physical aspect. I have no lower body strength.”
Miller, on the other hand, said he’s having the opposite problem.
Miller said he has been biking long-distance for roughly four years. To raise the required money and gain support, Miller has already sent out 77 letters to local businesses, friends and family members who might support the initiative. But he said he’s worried it isn’t enough.
As well as volunteering during the cross-country trip, the participants will meet local officials and community members to inform them of affordable housing issues in different states.
As a native of West Philadelphia, Goldberg said she grew up seeing ample affordable housing in her neighborhood. The problem, she said, still exists because “10s of thousands of people remain on the waitlist.”
“At this point, I have a basic understanding [of affordable housing], but I couldn’t tell you about it necessarily,” Goldberg said. “But it’s a big issue, and it’s in my backyard. It’s within my reach.”
“That’s what we’re going for and representing,” Miller added. “Being able to represent Bike & Build and their mission – that’s going to give me really good satisfaction.”
After Miller and Goldberg return home, they said they hope to use what they learned to benefit not only their own careers and future volunteer work, but to influence their peers in Philly.
“I guess there’s only so much that a group of 20 college-aged students can do,” Goldberg said. “But I think just educating a group of 20 kids about that does something. It might seem like a drop in the ocean … but we can come back and spread the word to other Temple students so they can do something along those lines. I think a lot more needs to be done, but this is a tipping point.”
Emily Rolen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.