A calling followed: Volunteers, cyclists pitch in during cross-country trip | CraigDailyPress.com

A calling followed: Volunteers, cyclists pitch in during cross-country trip

Ben McCanna

Volunteers for the Fuller Center gather Wednesday outside the Simmons Rooming House on Yampa Avenue. Twenty-eight volunteers for the Fuller Center are cycling across the United States and performing community services along the way.

Laura Larson spent most of Wednesday morning scooping piles of fallen branches from a weedy lawn and into a trailer.

The yard work, she said, is her ticket across the country.

"I love cycling," Larson said. "I've always dreamt of riding across the country on my bike. This is one way to do it, and also do something for society."

Larson is one of 28 cyclists who arrived Tuesday in Craig and will depart today.

The group, made up of cyclists from all over the country, is riding across the country on behalf of the Fuller Center for Housing, a national nonprofit organization that provides housing for low-income families.

On June 12, the cyclists left Seattle. On Aug. 13, they hope to arrive in Washington, D.C.

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In the meantime, they are raising money and awareness for the Fuller Center. They're also furthering the organization's mission through hard work.

On Wednesday, the cyclists broke off into small groups and tackled small projects at five different locations throughout Craig.

Neil Folks, president of the Moffat County Fuller Center for Housing, said the work around town was part of the national organization's Greater Blessings Program.

"It's for the handicapped, or seniors, or veterans who can't afford to hire someone to come in and fix a hole in the roof … or whatever," he said. "It's just another leg of the (Fuller Center) program."

Four cyclists helped Folks with his group's inaugural project, the old Simmons Rooming House in the 700 block of Yampa Avenue.

The Moffat County chapter of the Fuller Center is an organization that emerged from the now-defunct local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The two groups are somewhat similar, Folks said.

"But Fuller is a little more grass-rooted than Habitat for Humanity," he said.

Folks' group began demolishing the Simmons Rooming House in the fall in hopes of building a duplex at the site this summer. The project hit a snag, however.

"Well, we're shut out right now because of an asbestos problem," Folks said.

Removing the asbestos will cost $7,200. Demolition can't proceed until the abatement is complete.

In the meantime, however, the cross-country volunteers performed yard work on the property.

Volunteer Jason Raeburn, a student at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., said he discovered the Fuller Center through an ad on Facebook. He recalled his reaction to the discovery.

"I said, 'Oh, I love biking and I'd love to see the country.' So I clicked on it," said Raeburn, 21. "It's been amazing. I couldn't imagine anything better."

To take part in the ride, each cyclist must raise $1 per mile, or roughly $3,600 for the entire trip.

Larson said food and shelter are provided to the cyclists by the towns they travel through. The Fuller Center arranged for the volunteers to stay at different churches along the way and dine on meals provided by the community.

"We've gotten wonderful support along the way," Larson said.

In Craig, the cyclists stayed at First Congregational Church.

To participate in the cross-county ride, Larson, 49, left her job as a project manager in an IT department in Traverse City, Mich.

"I asked to have a leave of absence from my job and they denied it," she said. "I felt called to do this trip, so I resigned.

"When I get back, I'll figure out what I want to do."

Larson said the trip has been rewarding.

"Oh yeah, definitely," she said. "It's been a dream come true.

"I wouldn't have resigned if I didn't feel called to do this."

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“It’s been amazing. I couldn’t imagine anything better.”

—Jason Raeburn, a volunteer for the Fuller Center for Housing, on his cross-country cycling trip

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