Friday, July 25, 2003

Cyclists aim to break poverty cycle



By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Fifty bicyclists on a coast-to-coast ride to raise awareness about poverty pedaled through Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Thursday and heard some statistics about Tristate poverty: 85,319 people living below the federal guidelines for poverty, including 33,638 children.

According to the 2000 census, the Tristate's 13-county region had a poverty rate of 9.7 percent.

The Brake the Cycle of Poverty Tour, sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, (CCHD) stopped for a prayer at the World Peace Bell in Newport.

Sister Ruth Kettman, of the Covington Diocese's Justice & Peace Office, said the bike riders represent a solidarity of love.

"We pray to create attention to the problem of poverty," she said.

Bicyclists from around the country who started the tour in San Francisco on June 1 were joined by bikers from Cincinnati and Louisville. They wore T-shirts carrying the message: "Poverty U.S.A, America's forgotten state, population 33 million."

The tour ends Aug. 1 in Washington, D.C.

One of the oldest among the bicyclists was Jeffrey Gros, 65, a teacher for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. He joined the group in Kansas City while on vacation.

He thinks by reaching out to rich and poor and making them aware, they are creating a chance to break the cycle of poverty.

"This is not about giving handouts. It is about helping people to understand poverty and understand what they can do to help,'' Gros said.

He is impressed with the mission of creating local groups and organizations that band together to create awareness of health issues, crime, unemployment and education.

"In the 1970s, we worked with a group in Memphis to set up a poor people's health clinic. We helped to close down a crack house in St. Louis," Gros said.

A young biker, Kevin Graves, 20, started with the group in San Francisco. He is a sophomore at Lynchburg College in Virginia.

"This has been a great chance for me to think of ways to help change things when I get back to college," Graves said.

He said he is physically prepared for the tour because he is a cross-country runner.

"We have been averaging about 70 miles a day. Most of the time the weather has been good," Graves said.

Biker Jack Looby, who teaches in the chastity education program for Catholic Social Services, and Don Burrell, of the Bike Pedestrian Coalition, were among the local bikers who joined the tour through Cincinnati.

"We will do about 20 miles," Looby said.

After the ceremony at the Peace Bell, the bikers crossed the Purple People Bridge for a snack at Sawyer Point. They had lunch at Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine, and listened to a performance by the Bucket Boys and Buckettes.

Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk spoke to the group at Xavier University's Cintas Center Thursday night.

CCHD was established in 1969. Last year, it awarded $257,000 in grants to 21 agencies in the archdiocese.

E-mail ahoward@enquirer.com




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