Hope cycles through Franklin

Published 8:24 am Friday, July 24, 2009

FRANKLIN—If you saw a group of 20-somethings riding bikes through town on Thursday, it was likely members of the Wesley Cycle of Hope passing through on their cross-country journey to raise awareness about homelessness and poverty.

“We started in San Francisco at the Golden Gate Bridge about nine weeks ago, and we cycled all the way here,” said Janetta Evans, one of the cyclists. She said that the journey will end on Friday in Virginia Beach.

“We averaged from about 50 to 80 miles a day,” Evans said. “It takes about five to six hours.”

According to Evans, the goals of the Valdosta, Ga.-based group of college students are to raise awareness and get people motivated to fight homelessness and poverty in their own communities. The group stopped at churches and other organizations across the nation and talked to people about the misconceptions that surround homelessness and poverty.

“We felt like being on a bicycle was the best way to get people’s attention,” Evans said.

In addition to raising awareness about homelessness and poverty, the cyclists are raising money for two charities, Safe House Outreach in Atlanta and the Humble School in Uganda.

Members of the group said that they saw an immediate change in some of the communities they visited.

“We’ve seen a lot of people start working in their own community this summer,” Evans said. “We’ve also seen the generosity of other people just because of our need for places to stay.”

Evans said that they tried to call ahead and set up places to stay during the 10-week trip, but were only able to make advance arrangements for eight nights. Planning for the worst, the group bought camping equipment, but they were only forced to use it a couple of times.

“We had to camp out twice, and that was it,” Evans said. Every other night, they were offered a place to stay by residents.

Cyclist Benjamin Harris said that the hours of cycling were challenging. At 28, he is the oldest cyclist in the group.

“My body might not be as resilient as some of the younger ones,” he said.

Harris said that the Cycle of Hope was appealing to him because he loves cycling and it relates to his goal of becoming a missionary.

“From a Christian prospective, it’s been trusting God’s grace to provide a place to stay,” Harris said, recalling a night in Utah when they had nowhere to stay until a pastor showed up at the last minute and opened his door to them.

The cyclists stayed in Franklin Thursday night in a house next to the High Street United Methodist Church. The church owns the home and uses it for Sunday school and other weekend church events, according to Diane Arrington, the church’s secretary.

“They seem like a great group of young people,” she said. “I’m glad that our facility was available.”

Arrington said that some church members were planning to take the cyclists out and show them the city’s sights and take them to dinner.

“You can’t come to Franklin without eating at Fred’s,” she said.

Evans said that the experience has been eye-opening for the entire group and taught her about the generosity of her fellow Americans.

“Even though America is so diverse and spread out, the generosity of people is the same no matter where you go.”