By BURTON SPEAKMAN
More than 20 bicyclists rode into the Valley where they would spend a day rehabilitating a Struthers home as part of their trip across the U.S.
Twenty-seven volunteers from the Bike & Build program arrived in Youngstown on Wednesday before heading to Struthers on Thursday morning to work all day. Despite the rain, the group was able to strip paint, work on cabinets and take care of other projects inside.
Bike & Build operates eight tours that go across the country, helping with building projects along with the way. The route that traveled through the Valley started June 13 in Providence, R.I., and will conclude Aug. 18 in Seattle.
Unlike many of the Bike & Build projects, the Struthers project was a home rehabilitation at 352 Woodbine Ave. instead of a building effort.
As a high school teacher, Molly Althaus of Kettering, Ohio, wanted to do something productive during her summer break.
“I heard about this program from a friend and did some research. It was so inspiring,” she said.
“We do a lot of different things,” said Kosta Psaltis of Tacoma, Wash.
He was willing to take on the $4,500 in fundraising to make the trip, because he wanted to do something worthwhile during his summer vacation from college. From that $4,500, half goes toward paying expenses on the trip and the rest funds affordable housing projects, Psaltis said.
“This is a whole lot more than just a bike ride,” he said.
Daniella Raynal of Petoskey, Mich., said she learned about the project through a friend.
In the group’s previous stops, the participants have put on a roof, primed ceilings and installed siding among other work, she said.
At each stop, the group is provided some information on the town in which they’re working, Raynal said. The group awakes each day around 5 a.m. to either work or head off to the next stop, typically riding eight hours a day.
While the group was in Youngstown, it stayed at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Habitat for Humanity in Mahoning County has welcomed this group for several years and appreciates all it does for this area, according to a statement from the organization.
“One of the great things about this program is we sometimes get to meet the families we’re helping,” Althaus said. “The looks on their faces are amazing. This is such a cool organization.”
Last year, Habitat in Mahoning County received a $7,500 grant from Bike & Build to help improve job-site safety and increase opportunities for teens and young adults on its housing project. Habitat has even hired a 2011 past Bike & Build visitor, Colin Penney, as its volunteer coordinator.