Downtown Angels: Biking to build houses

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Video by Holly Bernstein

One-hundred-and-three people biked from downtown Phoenix to Mexico on Saturday to raise money for people in poverty.

Nonprofit 1MISSION hosted its annual cycling event Bikes Fight Poverty, which began in downtown Phoenix. Bikes Fight Poverty raises money to put people in homes.

According to a press release, the riders are on their way to reaching their fundraising goal of $140,000. One-hundred percent of the money raised will fund 25 or more houses for people living in unsafe barrios in Mexico, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

According to Nate Hughes, 1MISSION’s vice president of partnerships, all of the families earn their homes. “They have to serve a minimum of 200 hours in their community to earn their house, so really we’re doing community development. The house kind of just becomes the final piece to that.” Hughes said some of the money goes to running the projects and programs.

This is the event’s eighth year. Hughes said one of the biggest changes this year is the location.

“We brought it downtown to give it that urban feel and really tie it to Phoenix,” Hughes said. “One of the things we’re really hoping to see is the ride expand. That more people would get involved. Next year we’re hoping to add a two-mile city family ride where we’ll block off streets in the city and encourage people to bring their families down and join the whole party as we ride.”

Bikes Fight Poverty was founded by Ian and Erin Long. Long said he and his wife had a close friend who was moving to Mexico and sold everything to become a full-time missionary, working to build homes for those in poverty.

“We were trying to find a way to make our money go a little bit further, so I thought I’d run a marathon, maybe ride a century ride, and then get people to donate a dollar a mile.”

Long said this year 1MISSION started a motorcycle ride down to Rocky Point.

“This year also we’ll have a 30-mile ride and a 60-mile ride that will just stay here in town, so we’re looking at other ways to expand our audience and get more people involved that way,” he said.

Long has ridden for years and built tons of houses, but he shared one story that had a huge impact on him.

“Two years ago we went to build a house, and the lady we were building the house for was pregnant,” Long said.

Long said the woman had told him that if the baby were a boy she would name him Ian.

“I was just amazed that that would even happen,” he said. “I thought, I’m just here for a weekend. I’m just building a house, so that was a huge impact on me. Time passes. I don’t hear from her.”

Long went back 12 months later and found out the woman had a daughter.

“I meet her. She’s there, actually as we pull in with the bikes. I give her a hug, ask her how she’s doing. She says she’s doing great,” Long said. “She hands the baby to me, and I say, ‘What’s your daughter’s name?’ and she says, ‘Ian.’”

Long said he thinks that speaks more about the impact that he had on the woman than it did on him.

“The only way she knew how to say thank you was to name her daughter after me.”

Contact the reporter at Holly.Bernstein@asu.edu.

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