Mound couple finishes 20 years as event volunteers

This year, as the Habitat 500 bike ride finishes in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, Susan and Walter Baker will celebrate 20 years of volunteering for the event.

The Bakers, who are Mound residents, have been participating in the Habitat 500 since the first ride 20 years ago for one cause: to build safe, decent and affordable homes for low-income families.

Since its inception in 1993, $4.5 million dollars have been raised through the Habitat 500 for Habitat for Humanity home construction, contributing to the 2,000 homes built by Minnesota affiliates. The Habitat 500, an annual fundraising bike ride organized by Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota, gives riders the chance to build a cycle of hope for families across the world from the seat of their bicycle.

"There are terrific people that decide to ride their bicycles 500 miles and raise funds so that someone else can have a home. They are wonderful people, from all walks of life," said 20-year volunteer Walter Baker. "It’s really nice to get to know them."

Susan and Walter Baker’s role during the week of the ride is simple. They want to provide safety for the riders on the road. But along with this goal comes great responsibility. Each year, the Bakers use their expertise as amateur radio operators to be the first contact for bicyclists who are in need of something during the ride. Whether riders have an injury, a question about the route, or a mechanical issue, the Bakers are there to provide for the needs of riders to ensure a fun, comfortable, and safe journey.

Now in its 20th year, the Habitat 500 bike ride will embark with 135 bikers and 40 volunteers on a 500-mile journey July 15 through 21, biking through south-central Minnesota. Participants will bike 50 to 100 miles each day on the ride, making six overnight stops in cities in south-central Minnesota. This year’s route starts in St. Louis Park at the build site of the 2,000th Habitat home to be built in Minnesota. The route then travels through Hastings, New Prague, and Hutchinson (with a 100-mile loop), and continues on to New Ulm and Mayer before circling back into St. Louis Park.

As the Bakers reflect on their experiences throughout their 20 years of volunteering, many positive memories stand out.

"The Habitat 500 is unique in that you become a community as you go down the road 500 miles passing through all these towns," said Susan Baker. "What pulls us all together is the devotion to the Habitat for Humanity mission and the impact it has on families."

Each participant is required to raise a minimum of $900 to participate in the ride, but typically raises much more, averaging $2,400 per person. This year’s 20th Anniversary fundraising goal is to raise $300,000 to help create additional affordable housing opportunities for low-income families.

For more information on how to get involved, please visit www.habitat500.org.

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