CLEVELAND, Tenn. - More than 200 cyclists pedaled from Bradley Central High School to scenic country roads as part of Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland's fifth annual Bike to Build on Saturday morning.
This year's event, which offered riders a choice of 20k, 50k or 100k routes, raised money for two home construction projects that will be completed in coming months.
"It's a great cause," said cyclist Gayle Lodato, a Chattanooga mental health professional. "Everybody deserves to have a roof over their heads and to stay warm."
Habitat families and volunteers cheering and dancing to Queen's 1978 hit "Bicycle Race" were there to launch the cyclists on their morning rides.
"This event wouldn't be possible without a lot of amazing volunteers," said Brittany Sloan, events coordinator for Habitat for Humanity.
Those riders also received boosts of snacks, water and rest stops along their routes and were greeted with more cheers when they returned to Bradley Central.
"It's a good time; it's a good ride," said Matt Carlson, executive director of Cleveland's Habitat for Humanity. "We have so many beautiful parts of Bradley County that have so much to offer cyclists."
This year's event, dubbed "The Big Five," marks the fourth time that Bike to Build has been sponsored by Toyota of Cleveland, said Habitat officials.
"Cleveland has been very supportive of Bike to Build over the years," said Carlson. "We have been blessed with so much help with this event."
The fundraising event is not just about building homes, said officials. Each new home has a family with faces and names, and they put in 400 hours of "sweat equity" and take home ownership and personal finance classes to qualify for Habitat's interest-free mortgages.
"I work with families in all the program's capacities," said NaCole Massengill, Habitat's director of family services. "I get to know them on another level, and they become part of the Habitat family."
The Habitat for Humanity program received praise from the Freeman and Molly families, who will take ownership of the two homes sponsored in part by the 2014 Bike to Build.
"We are really excited, and our kids cannot wait," said Ersina Molly, a mother of four who works at Life Bridges. "We live in a small place right now, and this will be our first home."
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.