WATCH NOW: ‘Another century for another family’: Build and Bike group renovates 170-year-old La Crosse house | Education

After cycling halfway across the country, a group of about 20 young adults stopped in La Crosse on Thursday to help Habitat for Humanity build a home for a local woman and her two children.

Since 2003, Bike and Build has raised over $6.6 million through service-oriented bike trips to raise awareness of affordable housing. In coordination with Habitat for Humanity La Crosse staff and volunteers, the group installed siding on a house on Sixth Street South, in addition to other tasks.

This stop in La Crosse marks the Bike and Build group’s halfway point in their 4,167-mile journey across the United States. The group started in Vermont about a month ago and will wrap up in Washington later this summer.

Bike and Build volunteers, left to right, Stevie Borrello of Brooklyn, NY, Yutong Chen of Jinan, China, and Claire Davis of Kansas City, Mo., work Thursday to install vinyl siding in a home Habitat for Humanity on Sixth Street South. The group bikes across the country from Vermont to Washington State to raise awareness of the need for affordability and help with similar projects along its route.

Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune

Sometimes cycling more than 60 miles a day, the group stops at various locations to help with home improvement projects. Bike and Build last stopped at La Crosse in 2016.

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Sakia Kuehl, originally from Oregon and member of the group Bike and Build, said she had always wanted to take a bike trip across the country. In addition to bonding with other members of her team, Kuehl said she enjoys meeting new people in different cities across the United States.

“I love the service aspect and the ability to connect with communities,” Kuehl. “I feel like it makes it a more meaningful experience to see the country like that.”

Cycling and construction

Los Angeles’ Jake Hernandez clears dirt from a Habitat for Humanity home Thursday while volunteering with Bike and Build.

Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune

Andrea Baum will eventually purchase the house being renovated by Habitat for Humanity in La Crosse, and it will become her home and that of her two children. Baum currently lives in an apartment that poses health and safety risks to her and her children.

“I never really had a house that I could grow up in and live in all my life or anything; I moved around a lot and never really had that kind of family aspect,” Baum said. “But I’m really excited to give this to (my kids). I’ve been waiting for this their whole life.

The path to homeownership has not been easy, Baum said.

“I always wanted to own my own home,” Baum said. “But I never had the means to own it. Interest and a down payment are difficult, even at age 32.

The Sixth Street house is one of the oldest in the area, at around 170 years old, according to Curtis Miller, the construction supervisor at the site. Some of the original woodwork is still visible in the foundations of the house.

Cycling and construction

Nina Vanell, a Bike and Build volunteer from Palm Harbor, Fla., marks the siding before cutting it while volunteering at a Habitat for Humanity home on Thursday.

Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune

“It’s fun to work on one of the oldest homes in La Crosse, so it will have another century to go for another family,” Miller said.

They aim to maintain the structural integrity and character of the home, while updating the interior and exterior. Major construction on the house began earlier this spring and will likely continue through late fall, Miller said.

Miller said giving back to the community by providing safe and secure places to live is an important service. The hope is that groups that help along the way, like Bike and Build, can have fun along the way.

“These kids are going to enjoy the day,” Miller said. “Not only will they learn new skills and feel like they’ve accomplished something, but they’ll have fun doing it.”

Maria R. Newman