Calhoun Baptist Church opened its doors to The Fuller Center Bike Adventure as members of the organization stopped to rest in between their bike ride from Amelia Island, Florida to Florence, Oregon.
According to The Fuller Center website, the bike rides are a service and fundraising extension of The Fuller Center for Housing, a non-profit Christian housing ministry to eliminate poverty housing worldwide.
Bicycle Adventure Coordinator Neil Mullikin said the bike adventure participants come from all over the country with the goal of raising $600,000. The Florida to Florence ride began on May 28 and should arrive in Florence on Aug. 8. There are nine bikers traveling the entire distance from Florida to Florence and 24 total with some coming in and out of the trip.
“Riders have a fundraising requirement in which they raise various amounts in order to ride across the country,” Mullikin said. “The ride not only represents the funds raised but also an opportunity to share that message as we travel across the United States.”
Mullikin said he joined the organization in March of this year. He was a financial advisor for Edward Jones before making the transition to bicycle coordinator.
“I felt this was something God had called me to do,” he said. “I uprooted from Topeka, Kansas and moved to Americus, Georgia in order to follow this path. My role is not only leading the riders but it’s also doing a lot of the organization with the churches, coordinating build sites across the U.S., working with a lot of our partners and working on homes and getting to know the families.”
The stop in Calhoun was part of Segment Three, a bike ride from Murfreesboro, Tennessee to St. Louis, Missouri. Segment Four began on June 20 and includes biking from St. Louis to Kansas City, Missouri.
“The connections with the families is my favorite thing about the rides,” Mullikin said. “There have been times I sat with a family and I saw so much love and compassion and being so grateful. For example, in West Point, Georgia, there was a gentleman dying with stage four cancer and his goal before he were to pass was to make sure that rain wasn’t dripping on his wife’s head and his wife didn’t fall through the floor.”
Mullikin said they were able to put in a new roof, add new appliances and replace the flooring for the Georgia family.
“Those things I will live with forever,” he said.
The organization has partners in approximately 70 U.S. communities and 19 countries and provides the structure, guidance and support needed to build and repair homes with families living in “substandard” shelter.
“The Fuller Center started in 2005 by Millard Fuller, who also founded Habitat for Humanity,” Mullikin said. “Millard felt that The Fuller Center had an opportunity to serve individuals that Habitat could not serve. When he founded it, he wanted to focus, still, on the goal of ending poverty housing.”
The Fuller Center Bike Adventure has raised over $3 million since beginning the rides in 2008, according to the website. Along the rides, the organization stays overnight at churches across the country.
“What I’ve found is that it’s certainly an adventure,” Mullikin said. “When you rely on churches and rely on the communities and organizations, it’s really kind of an ‘a-ha’ and a beautiful thing to see how much the communities come together to help out the riders.”
The bike adventures include rides on the Natchez Trace, a Tour de Florida, Florida to Florence and the West Coast.
Mullikin said the rides were suspended in 2020 due to COVID-19. All riders were required to have the COVID-19 vaccine before participating and were tested before the ride. A rapid testing kit is brought to use if any rider is showing symptoms of COVID-19. Any riders joining at later segments are also required to take a COVID-19 test.
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