Biking for a Cause: Tour de Habitat (for Humanity)

Last weekend Aric and I headed over to Henry Villas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin, to give a little Schwinn love to some local altruistic bicyclist and to one of my personal favorite non-profit organizations, Habitat for Humanity, University of Wisconsin-Madison Chapter.

This year marked the fourth year that Habitat for Humanity, UW-Madison held its annual Tour de Habitat, a friendly bicycle race that aids the student organization in their mission to help build safe, decent, affordable housing for all Dane County residents. A noble pursuit that undoubtedly helps to build character along with houses.

To learn more about the Habitat for Humanity-UW Madison Chapter (H4H-UW), we talked to three members of their board of directors; Vice President, Mike; Strategic Communication Director, Kelsey; Secretary, Nicola; and 2013 past President Sam.

Schwinn: Can you tell us a bit more about Habitat for Humanity UW-Madison Chapter? 

Sam: Our Chapter started in 1993 with two guys who wanted to make Habitat for Humanity a student organization, which would take time to help build homes with Dane County’s Chapter. However, soon the students created a goal to build their first home, and in 2000 they were able to do just that; since then we have been building one home each year with just student volunteers!

Habitat for HumanityKelsey: Currently we work as an affiliate of Dane County Habitat for Humanity. This year we were able to build our fourteenth house for a family in need around the Dane County area. We are working toward being able to build a house independently as a Chapter without the funds from Dane County. While they are wonderful affiliates who have helped us endlessly, it would be really rewarding to be able to say we built a house as a Chapter without any help.

Our board of directors is made up of all UW-Madison students. It’s a group of students who want to go above and beyond the opportunities provided to them in the academic setting at the UW. It really is wonderful to be surrounded by a group of people who want to help others and put a lot of their free time into doing so.

How many years has Habitat been doing Tour de Habitat? Can you explain more about the event?

edit1Kelsey: This is the fourth year we have done Tour de Habitat. We have two separate courses each year, a 12-mile ride and a 25-mile ride. It’s a great non-competitive bike course to take your family around on a nice Spring day! The courses go through the UW Arboretum, the UW campus and Lake Monona. There really isn’t a comparable view to what participants get when doing Tour de Habitat.

Schwinn: Mike, the T-shirt designs are really unique, and one reason I know a lot of students want to participate. Can you explain this year’s T-shirt design?

Mike: Last year the shirt was a play off of the Fat Bottom girls Queen album cover with a Badger in pink undies (see post cover image). This year my motivation for the design was to figure out a way to incorporate our goal, which is to build affordable housing with the means we received from the fundraiser, Tour de Habitat. The house is being carried in the water bottle holder of this bike, which is almost symbolic of what this fundraiser does.motobecaneSchwinn: Where does all the money raised at Tour go?

Nicola: The money raised for Tour goes towards our sponsorship of this year’s Habitat house. Every year we pledge a certain amount of money to Dane County in order for us to be able to sponsor a house and build at the site once a week.

Schwinn: How can people find out more information about this event and other events hosted by H4H-UW?

Nicola: If you are interested in learning more about what the Habitat for Humanity –UW Madison Chapter does, and the events/fundraisers that we host you can subscribe to our email list, Emails are sent out once a week during the academic school year. You can also visit our website. Finally, if you “like” our Facebook page, we will keep you up to date about upcoming events; you can like our page at!

Schwinn: Can you tell us more about the family Habitat for Humanity UW-Madison Chapter supported this year?

Mike: Last year a student made this PSA about our chapter and about the family we worked with this year. It does a great job describing that relationship and how all our work accumulates into this one goal.

Schwin: Many people get confused about how Habitat works; can you describe how a family obtains their home? Who pays for it, builds it, etc?

Nicola: Habitat homes are built by volunteer labor and donations. In order to become a homeowner there is a lengthy application process. Homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor into building their Habitat house and houses of others. Houses are sold to families at no profit and financed with affordable loans. The homeowner’s monthly mortgage payments are used to build more Habitat houses.

Sam: A lot of people think that Habitat for Humanity just hands out homes, but really the home owners do so much. We call their labor sweat equity, plus in the end they have to pay their mortgage. So really Habitat for Humanity is providing that stepping stone and a chance for a family to own a home when in many cases that seemed impossible! It’s a hand up; not a hand out.

Schwinn: How can people of Madison and other communities get involved with Habitat?

1229962_10151919759745159_801291330_nKelsey: There are so many ways for people to get involved with Habitat. Students can join our organization or others similar to it at campuses across the country. Many communities have a group called Habitat Young Professionals, which is for people who are in their first few years out of college. Then, of course, there are affiliates all around the country similar to Dane County. People can join these groups or they can simply volunteer their time at an event. We are always looking for more volunteers!

Sam: Dane County has already helped over 200 families since they were founded in 1987. To be able to say you were a part of that in college or in any other time of your life is truly a rewarding experience!

Thank you to Habitat for Humanity-UW Madison Chapter for letting us be a part of Tour de Habitat this year! We can’t wait to see how this event grows in years to come.

Get out and Ride,


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