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Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure stops in Selma on cross-country trip

A small flock of cyclists rode 53 miles from Demopolis to Selma Wednesday afternoon to complete one of their many stops in The Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure.

The FCBA is a nine-week cross country bike ride from San Francisco, California, to Savannah, Georgia, that raises money and awareness for The Fuller Center for Housing, a non-profit Christian ministry founded by Linda and Millard Fuller.

“The Fuller Center works internationally in 18 countries and across the U.S. to provide simple, decent places to live for families in need,” trip leader Henry Downes said.

Downes, 24, graduated from The University of Alabama in 2015 and joined the FCBA in 2016.

Unlike the TV show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” that just gives away upgraded homes, The Fuller Center works through a partnership housing model. The candidate assists with building their own home, and receives a non-profit and no interest loan that they can pay back.

“The idea is to provide capital for them so they can have social mobility that they otherwise wouldn’t have had,” Downes said. “Our motto is ‘hand-ups, not hand-outs’. We don’t build a house just to gift it to somebody. They really become a homeowner and have accountability in the home.”

The 3,600-mile cross-country bike ride has been the fundraiser of choice for 10 years. The journey began on June 3, in San Francisco and they have gone through Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi. After they pass through Alabama, they have several stops in Georgia before they reach their final destination in Savannah. The goal for the riders is to raise money, spread awareness and help build the affordable homes.

Fundraising is the primary objective for the bike adventure. Each rider contributes at least one dollar per mile.

“Together as a team, between all of our riders, this year we have raised more than $300,000,” Downes said. “This year we were shooting for $380,000, and the reason for that funny number is because that would mean we had raised our two millionth dollar in our history with the bike adventure.”

The team is still hoping to reach that goal by the time they get to Savannah. According to Downes, the team broke their all-time fundraising record on Tuesday night. They have already surpassed last year’s total of approximately $303,000.

The team spreads awareness with their bright orange jerseys they wear on every ride. The course map is displayed on their backs. Their mission is to “spread the word of The Fuller Center and plant seeds in communities and churches as we go,” according to Downes.

Riders come from all over the country to participate.

“It’s really neat to have a lot of these people who have never been to the South sometimes,” Downes said. “To bring them into places like this, and introduce them to the history is kind of like a shock to the system. It opens their eyes to a lot that they might not have experienced.”

During their journey, the riders make pit stops at Fuller Center building sites along their course to help with the builds.

Not only does it provide a break from riding, but allows the participants to get a hands-on experience assisting those whom they are fundraising for.

The riders arrived in Selma and rode straight to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where they will spend the night and rest. Immediately after getting off the road, the team parked their bikes inside the church and unloaded the team travel van that carried their food, clothes and supplies.

As the journey went along, they have had both full course and partial course participants. This year’s team was made up of both veteran and rookie fund-raisers.

Over the course of their journey, they’ve enjoyed the company of riders from ages 14 to 74.

Steve Maliszeski, 32, is a first-time participant from Minot, North Dakota, in the bike adventure and has been with the team since they took off from San Francisco.

“Every state is a little bit different,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun seeing the different environments; from the mountains of California, the salt plains in Utah, the flat lands of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas and now the humidity of the southeast.”

Maliszeski said the most difficult area to get through was stretch through New Mexico and Texas because of the heat. Despite the heat, the service aspect of his trip has been even more rewarding.

“Our build days really puts a face to what we’re fundraising for,” he said. “Seeing the 37 houses built in Shreveport, and working on multiple other projects for various people throughout the trip makes the whole thing worth it. It helps us fund raise even more because we get an appreciation for who we’re doing the work for.”

To learn more about raising awareness for affordable housing, visit FullerCenter.org.