Janesville women enjoying cross-country volunteer tour
Hammers clattered and saws whined as 32 young adults from all over the country joined local volunteers for a build day at the Habitat for Humanity site.
The helpers had arrived the night before by bicycle and slept at First Presbyterian Church. They represent Bike & Build, an organization that sends troops of cyclists on coast-to-coast rides each summer. They stop along the way to help build affordable housing.
The cyclist/builders included two local women, both graduates of Craig High School, Sarah Hamilton and Kate Terry.
Terry has just graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Spanish, psychology and education, and Hamilton from UW-Madison with a degree in genetics.
Both heard about the opportunity from other Janesvillians who biked and built in previous years. Ali Kolste was Hamilton’s inspiration. Ben Ryan was Terry’s. Ben’s brother Max Ryan is on a different Bike & Build this summer, which doesn’t pass through Janesville.
Hamilton and Terry said they were told it would be the experience of a lifetime. They said that was no exaggeration.
“I don’t think any of us anticipated meeting the people we have met, not only in our group but in the communities,” Terry said.
The pair said they also valued what they have learned about the importance of affordable housing.
At one of their stops, they witnessed a family being surprised with the announcement that the house they were working on would be theirs.
“Everyone was in tears. It was so moving and so powerful,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the adventure and the physical challenge appealed to her. “Not many people can say they biked across the country. … And it’s great to do something for yourself and others simultaneously.”
Hamilton’s parents are Stuart and Suzanne Hamilton. Terry’s are Brigid and Mark Terry.
Janesville was the sixth site the group has worked on. Not all the sites are Habitat for Humanity homes. Other organizations include Rebuilding Together and Cover, as well as local efforts.
Each rider must raise $4,000. Each may designate $500 of that to whatever site they choose. Hamilton and Terry, unbeknownst to each other until Saturday, both decided to donate to Habitat in their hometown.
“It’s really neat, especially for us to give back to the community we lived in our whole lives,” Terry said.
The two, both considering graduate school, have given up a summer’s worth of earnings.
“We’re lucky to be in a position where we can give back,” Terry said.
“… I really wanted to travel, but I also wanted to do something to help people—not just go to Europe and spend a lot of money.”
Neither woman had cycled more than 15 miles before this trip. Terry said she had never had a new bike before.
“Now I can tell you this is going to be a lifelong hobby,” Hamilton said, undeterred by some rough days on the road, fighting headwinds and hills.
Their longest days scheduled is 116 miles. Some days are shorter.
On Saturday, Hamilton and Terry put up siding, swinging hammers and cutting with power tools. They’ve learned a lot about using tools and about how houses are constructed, something that will come in handy when they own their own homes, Hamilton said.
Construction manager Evan Thomas said ground was broken on the two-story, 1,400-square-foot house in late April.
The goal is to finish by Thanksgiving.
The cyclists have completed 1,333 of 3,810 miles. They have 41 more days before they’re scheduled to dip their tires into the Pacific Ocean.
Next stop is Madison, where they are looking forward to their first of three scheduled days off.