“This is a first for us, so I knew it was going to be a learning experience,” said Dr. Bill George, president of the PCL board. “We didn’t plan for it to be launched on a freezing morning, but I was heartened by the turnout. I was really happy so many people understood what we were trying to do and offered their support.”
Money raised through the event will go toward supporting PCL’s Build a City project in Cambodia.
Program and Development Director Jake Stum said funds raised will help build homes in Phnom Penh.
“One of the things we say is our work goes from Southeast Tennessee to Southeast Asia, so we felt like this partnership with Habitat [for Humanity] was the perfect example of that,” Stum said. “They build homes here in Southeast Tennessee, and our money goes toward building homes in Southeast Asia.”
Planning for the event has been in the works for months. Events and Logistics Director Ivey Lawrence said Habitat worked closely with PCL on the project. They teamed up with PCL to place their fellow nonprofit on the right direction and in contact with right people.
“It has been a good relationship and a great collaboration,” Lawrence said.
The partnership between the two nonprofits is designed to encourage growth in both biking events. Participants who register for both will receive a medal, which will change each year. A sign-up sheet for Habitat’s spring Bike to Build was available at Saturday’s event.
Riders had the option to pre-register for one of three courses laid out by Zach Gaston from Scott’s Bikes. The idea was to offer options for all types of riders. Start times were staggered for the 100K, 50K and 20K courses. The same start and finish line in First Baptist’s parking lot was used for all three courses.
Stan Pegram, Jacklyn Justice and Michael Basinsky took on the 50K together.
Justice explained the initial downhill ride was a brisk wake-up in the cold air.
Pegram said the organization was good and the event was well-handled for the nonprofit’s first large-scale biking venture.
“It is a good course. No real long, steep climbs,” Pegram shared. “If you wanted an enjoyable ride, that is exactly wat it was.”
Each ride offered varying landscapes and was chosen for its scenic fall beauty.
All participants had an opportunity to see Chilhowee Mountain as they peddled out toward Polk County. The scenes then changed based on the course.
Gaston gave an inside look into the riders’ experience.
“On the 13-miler (20K) we are in a little bit of the lower lands, so it is just nice, open meadows,” Gaston said. “With the 30-milers (50K riders) it’s a mix between some of the meadows and some of the Hiwassee for the first stage.”
Those on the 100K have an opportunity to see the first section of the Hiwassee River before connecting to Highway 30.
“They see the Hiwassee a second time there (Hwy 30), then they connect over to Highway 64 and are able to see Parksville Lake,” Gaston said.
Riders on the 100K who chose the four-mile hill option were rewarded with a panoramic view of the lake, the dam and the small islands.
Gaston shared he had an opportunity to see first hand what PCL is doing in Cambodia with Build a City.
“It is not a hand out, it is a hand up. They want to put these people in a better state of living,” Gaston said. “They show them away from that mindset of Buddhism and Hinduism that if you are born into poverty you have to stay in poverty.”
Executive Director Dr. Fred Garmon said the Cleveland community has been generous to PCL’s mission. He said the Bike 2 Build was just another one of the nonprofit’s efforts designed to give back to the community.
George said he feels Cleveland appreciates what is done locally as well as efforts made in Cambodia.
“We are trying to alleviate poverty and give the poor a working chance,” George explained. “What we have discovered is if we can take steps that help people get out of poverty, then we have changed their lives. Getting a place to live is one of the main things people need to start on the road to having a good lifestyle.”
PCL staff members agreed they are all eager to host a second annual Bike 2 Build next fall.