By Cindy Mindell
FAIRFIELD – While college kids throughout the country are flipping burgers and supervising summer-campers, a group of 32 young adults, ages 18 to 25, are spending their summer cycling the width of the U.S. to address the need for affordable housing.
Among the participants is Fairfield native Dan Halpert, who just graduated from Tufts University with a B.S. cum laude in environmental engineering.
Halpert attended Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Bridgeport, and is a graduate of Merkaz, the Community High School for Judaic Studies of Eastern Fairfield County. While at Tufts, he was a group leader and coordinator of the university’s Freshman Orientation Community Service program, leading incoming students in community-service projects around Boston.
Halpert learned about the ride – dubbed “Bike and Build” – from a friend who participated in the event last summer.
“Ever since he mentioned the program to me, I literally could not stop thinking about it,” Halpert says. “When else in my life would I be able to do something as novel as biking from one end of the United States to the other? Pairing this incredible experience with a more than deserving cause, affordable housing, made it too good to pass up.”
For Halpert, the ride is also an opportunity to see what lies outside the New England coastline where he has spent most of his young life.
“I am most excited to go to other parts of the country, see what there is to see, meet whom there is to meet, and do what there is to do,” he says, including an opportunity to help build homes and shelters across the country.”
The problem Bike and Build works to relieve is evident just a few hundred feet from his home, Halpert says, in Bridgeport, “where one can witness the affordable-housing crisis and high levels of homelessness first-hand.”
“Growing up so close to that made me realize how much we take for granted the simple pleasure of a roof over our heads, and that affordable housing should be granted to every person, regardless of their socioeconomic standing,” he says.
On June 13, the group left Providence, R.I., biking six days a week until they reach Seattle, Wash. on Aug. 21 – crossing 14 states over 70 days and racking up nearly 4,000 miles. Each participant was tasked with raising $4,500, distributed to organizations throughout the country that fund affordable-housing projects executed by young adults. So far, the group has raised nearly $170,000 and has helped to build six houses along their ride, with three more build sites on the route.
Seattle holds an extra incentive for Halpert: his sister, Sarah, lives there.
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