My name is Steve Thomas, and one day, the people who knew me well will say that I lived an interesting life. Most people have dreams about a successful career and marrying the love of their life; I have dreams about teaching in Peru and hiking in Nepal. Most people collect stamps, coins, cars, movies or money; I collect experiences, and almost nothing else matters. Most people want life to be predictable, safe, and comfortable; I believe that a sheltered life is a wasted one. I'm not like most people - not better or worse, just different. And that is why Bike & Build is right for me.
I'm 25 now, and this is my last year of eligibility for the program. It's also the first year it was brought to my attention, or I'd likely have done it by now. I graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 2010 with a degree in Journalism that I use all the time, but not yet professionally. I've spent the last two years performing national service with AmeriCorps, first as a VISTA combating poverty behind-the-scenes with an urban non-profit and then on the front lines in a direct-service, team-based program called NCCC.
Until my graduation from college, my life had always been about me. What sport should I play? What school should I attend? What major will help me to leverage a career where I can better look out for myself? But when I graduated, I found myself in a position to turn the tables and give something back for a change. It wasn't about guilt, but rather, perspective. It wasn't about charity; it was about solidarity. It was about my belief that we are all in this together, and we owe it to each other to love, care, and act accordingly.
I started in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, where people need better lives. In the shadows of that city, on the streets I was always told to avoid after dark, there lived families and children and people who went to bed hungry at night. I joined AmeriCorps VISTA and helped to run a non-profit from a church in a downtown community, managing volunteers, writing grant proposals, structuring programs and reporting on the community. I found that I could use my talents to help others, and I learned so much about the world outside of my world. It was hard, but it was worthwhile.
When I joined NCCC, I did so to get my hands dirty. I built homes, protected ecosystems, and responded to disasters. I spent a week working a shelter for victims of Hurricane Sandy, and spent two more in the Operations Center for the American Red Cross in New Jersey. Once again, I used my talents to help others, and the stories I could tell... even I can hardly believe them. That was hard, too, but it was again worthwhile.
Cycling is something I love. Affordable housing is something I must affect. In the community where I worked as a VISTA, generational poverty bred hopelessness and apathy, and the primary cause of that was the unreasonable cost of living. In a neighborhood where 30 percent of households made less than $10,000 per year, the median rent payment was more than $400 per month. Of all renters, almost 50 percent reported that rent alone cost them more than 35 percent of their income. It's not as if they were struggling to afford modern apartments (only five homes had been built in that neighborhood since 1980); they were struggling to keep a roof over their heads. That they had a roof at all was considered a blessing. Even in one of Cincinnati's poorest neighborhoods, the cost of living is too high for people to escape generational poverty.
If we hope to eliminate generational poverty, it all starts with affordable housing. It's my honor to raise awareness and money to combat this problem. Together with Bike & Build, I can see the world and continue to change it for the better. There's nothing else I need to be doing.
|Steve has currently raised $4,575.|
That's 102% of his $4,500 fundraising goal.