Clinton native Caroline Smiegal recently completed a cross country bicycle ride as part of a group effort to raise money and awareness for affordable housing.
She cycled from Portsmouth, N.H. on June 11, to Bellingham, Wash., with the Bike & Build program, assisting Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together and other local affordable-housing non-profits at 13 sites along the way.
“We did everything from moving drywall, to setting it up, scraping houses, painting houses, putting in ramps,” said Smiegal. “The whole trip was simply exhilarating.”
Smiegal was part of a 27-bicyclist team riding between 70 and 100 miles per day during their 4,100-mile journey across the northern tier of the U.S.
To prepare for the ride, Smiegal was required to complete 500 training miles, raise $5,000, volunteer with an affordable housing organization and interview an affordable housing affiliate and beneficiary.
A 2018 graduate of Dickinson College with a major in American studies, Smiegal now resides in Carlisle, Pa. and works for the college as an admissions counselor.
Smiegal is the daughter of Paul and Cindy Smiegal of Clinton and a graduate of Clinton High School as a member of the Class of 2014.
Every Bike & Build rider participates in a curriculum designed to inform not only the riders, but also the community members that riders meet during the summer. Pre-trip, riders read about and discuss in small groups the various issues surrounding the cause: public housing; sustainability; socioeconomic influences, etc.
They also meet with an individual in their community impacted by the crisis. During the trip, each rider shared what they learned from those conversations, both with their fellow Bike & Build teammates and with the community members they met on the road.
On the road, rider teams stopped about every fifth day and traded their bikes for hammers or saws to help on an affordable housing build site with a local affiliate.
For Bike & Builders, “days off” are really “days on” as riders serve alongside local community members in a hands-on application of Bike & Build’s mission to impact affordable housing. Additionally, prior to the trip every rider must complete 10 hours of “sweat equity” volunteer work on a local affordable housing affiliate site in their community.
Riders serve as ambassadors for the affordable housing cause. They prepare host presentations for the various church congregations and other community members who host them overnight or for a meal in order to talk a little about the cause. In communities through which they pass, riders talked to local residents and spread the message of what it meant to pedal for affordable housing.