Affordable housing advocate bikes and builds for cause

At 22, Lauren Greenberg already has long been committed to community service.

While a student at Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto, she helped repair homes in New Orleans and Mississippi that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina. She also did community service projects while studying in Israel through Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim, such as visiting the elderly and volunteering at soup kitchens.

Greenberg is currently involved in the Sacramento chapter of Habitat for Humanity, and this summer will bicycle across the country for the cause.

On June 16, Greenberg will be joining 23 other young adults on the excursion from Maine to Santa Barbara. They will bike in the morning and build houses in the afternoon, according to Greenberg, as part of the nonprofit Bike & Build. The organization puts together cross-country bike trips, where participants raise money for affordable housing groups and build houses as they pedal across America.

Lauren Greenberg pedals and fundraises in Davis.

“Biking across the country always sounded like a very cool but unattainable thing,” Greenberg said. As a student at U.C. Davis, she heard about Bike & Build from a customer at the cafe where she worked. The idea immediately intrigued her and she couldn’t stop asking the woman about the trip.

Lauren admits she has never been a crazy bike enthusiast, but she has for years been interested in affordable housing and involved in community service.

The trip will total 2,865 miles, covered in 72 days. Bike & Build has been organizing expeditions such as this since 2002, when it was founded by Yale undergraduate Marc Bush. It now has eight different cross-country routes and two regional routes (shorter, two-week trips) for young adults ages 18 to 25.

“One of our main goals is to develop the future leaders of this country,” said Justin Villere, director of operations and outreach for Bike & Build. 

Before the trip begins, participants must raise $4,500 (which goes to local affordable housing organizations, with a small portion funding the trip itself), build a habitat in their local community and log 500 miles of biking. 

The longest bike ride Greenberg has been on is 20 miles, but since signing up for Bike & Build she rides at least 10 miles daily to prepare.

She should do just fine, according to Villere. “You don’t have to have a lot of cycling experience to apply … just enthusiasm and passion for the cause.”

Greenberg has been simultaneously fundraising and training by setting up a fixed bike at the Davis Farmers Market. She and her friend Caroline Bohiken, who is also going on the trip, pedal and ask for donations. 

The first day of their trip coincides with their graduation ceremony from U.C. Davis, where Lauren studies international relations. “I feel like I’m missing [graduation] to do something cooler,” she said. “My parents are OK with it. I told them I would take a picture of the cap and gown.”

She has only been across the country via car and looks forward to visiting the various towns on the route. She will see the Grand Canyon for the first time (they will be biking along the southern rim), visiting her old stomping grounds in Columbus, Ohio (where she grew up), and exploring new territory.

“People generalize the middle of America, so it will be cool to stop in and see these towns,” she said. The bike

crew plans on sleeping in YMCAs and places of worship, where they will meet with the locals and tell them more about affordable housing. 

“We are going through these cities to help build, but also to talk and advocate for a cause,” Greenberg said.

Raising funds for affordable housing — and helping to  build it — are in keeping with her Jewish values.

“Tikkun olam has been so instilled in me,” said Greenberg, who grew up attending Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus before her family moved to San Jose, where they were members of Congregation Beth David in Saratoga.

Greenberg views her upcoming adventure as “a very hands-on way of helping people, and you see the improvements day by day.”

On her blog about the experience, she writes: “I am nervous to see how far I will have to push myself to do this, but I know that the volunteering I do along the way and the people I will meet will make it so worth it!”

To learn more about Lauren Greenberg’s trek and support her ride, go to