Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser – Anne Robin
For the past 14 years Anne Robin has been raising thousands of dollars for Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County from the seat of her bicycle! Every July she heads off to participate in the Habitat 500– a week long bike trip across the state of Minnesota to raise funds and awareness of poverty housing locally and around the world. Now entering its 24th year, the Habitat 500 is a bicycle ride and fundraiser that covers 500 miles over the course of 7 days (an average of 71 miles per day). Each rider raises funds from family, friends, businesses, and church groups and designates the Habitat for Humanity affiliate they wish to support. This ride is coordinated and hosted by Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota. Currently, more than 1,400 affiliates in the United States and about 70 national organizations around the world coordinate Habitat efforts to build, rehabilitate and repair homes with those who cannot access conventional home loans. Through their work, Habitat has served more than 800,000 families. Although numerous local riders have participated in the ride as far back as 2001, Anne has raised over $75,000 herself of the $105,000 total raised for the local Champaign County Habitat Affiliate! These funds have directly supported the Women Build Program which empowers local women to learn and use their building skills. Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County completed their 7th Women Build home this fall at 301 Thompson in Urbana with the help of these funds.
Robin explains. “Each rider pays her/his own way ($300 for the week). We also pledge to raise a minimum of $1,000 by asking friends and family to sponsor us. Over the past few years the online fundraising has seemed to help younger riders raise money faster– but I handwrite all my requests and thank you letters to those friends and family members who support me every year….and I put my own stamps on every single one of them. It’s my way of giving back.”
“We stay at schools, churches or community centers and are fed by the churches in the small towns along the route. The day starts at 5 am, and we try to be on the road by 7 when it is the coolest and there’s less traffic. The 40 person support staff provides rest stops, maps and a cue sheet with the route marked. Volunteer sag-wagon support vehicles provide extra water, help with flat tires, or even a ride to the next rest stop.”
Each year, Habitat 500 sponsors one house build in Minnesota–called the Bike Home. Riders have a chance to meet the family and often stop to work alongside them on their home. A portion of the money raised goes toward this house, and the rider’s funds also purchase bicycles and bike helmets for the Habitat partner family. This year the Bike Home is being built along the route in Bemidji, MN. Robin notes, “The smile on a child’s face when he receives his own bicycle donated by the riders– is priceless.”
Anne is also an integral part of the Women Build Committee at Habitat which supports women who want to learn construction skills and build homes and communities. The local committee plans and coordinates the Lowe’s “How to Build” Clinic each spring where women get hands on professional instruction from Lowe’s experts and Habitat construction staff. They learn about, and practice using power tools, installing siding, roofing shingles, and finishing paint and trim. Hundreds of women have participated in these clinics, and become regular Habitat volunteers.
Finally, Anne leads by example as she is not only an active volunteer on the committee, but is always looking to recruit new riders for the Habitat 500. Every year Anne has been able to recruit 3-4 new riders to participate alongside her in July. They begin their training rides together in the spring, and travel to Minnesota every July to complete the ride. Over 20 different Champaign County riders have participated in the Habitat 500 in the past 24 years, but only Anne has ridden in 14 consecutive rides for Habitat. “I love seeing old friends and making new ones every year. Bicycling people are special; and so are Habitat people. Combining the two is an amazing experience. Even though it’s a lot of work, we raise important funds and have a lot of fun doing it!”
Thank you Anne!