On May 6, if all is going according to schedule, the Rev. Dr. Daniel Kanter of First Unitarian Church of Dallas, will be pedaling his bicycle through northern Mississippi, preparing to cross over into Tennessee, on his way to Concord, Mass.
Kanter is riding 1,800 miles from Dallas to Concord to raise money to start a Jericho Road Project in Dallas. Jericho Road is a nonprofit that matches white-collar volunteers who donate their professional services to nonprofit organizations in need. The first one was begun 10 years ago by First Parish in Concord to assist nonprofits in surrounding communities, including Lowell. There are other Jericho Road project sites in Worcester and Roxbury, Mass. and in Pasadena, Calif. Dallas will be the fifth site. All were primarily organized by UU congregations.
When he left Dallas April 29 with a big sendoff from the congregation, Kanter had raised more than $18,000 toward his goal of $22,000 for the start-up. “This project is a concrete way to put the talents in our church into volunteer opportunities in underserved parts of Dallas,” he said in an interview before the ride began. “It will help us bridge communities in very effective ways.” Contributions can be made at the Dallas Jericho Road website. Around 175 friends and members of the congregation have agreed to volunteer their services. That number is expected to grow, Kanter said.
He is looking at the ride certainly as a way to raise the necessary funds to get Jericho Road up and going, but also as a personal quest. He is doing the ride totally unsupported—no riding companions except for days here and there. No sag wagon with spare parts, no bus to spend the night in. Some UU congregations and individuals are providing hospitality along the way. United Methodist colleagues in Dallas have also helped line up some of their congregations in case he needs them in areas that are sparsely populated by Unitarian Universalists. Still, in some areas he’ll likely be on his own.
“I’m carrying around 15 pounds, keeping it really light,” he said. “I won’t be camping, but I’ll have an emergency blanket if I need to spend the night in the woods someplace.”
Kanter expects to average 60 miles per day, with some 100-mile days, on a 27-speed cyclocross bike set up for touring. He plans to write a blog entry each day on a separate Ride to Jericho website. He will also be posting on Facebook and Twitter. His tentative route is posted on the website along with a list of towns he expects to pass through. Anyone who would like to offer home hospitality may contact him at ridetojericho [at] gmail [dot] com.
He added, “I’m excited, and at the same time I have some trepidation. There will be a sense of loneliness and of being exposed that will in some ways be a gift, and also part of the struggle. I expect some spiritual wrestling along the road. I know I can do this. The hardest part with anything like this will be the battle of the will to continue on at certain points. I’m looking forward to what might happen and who I might meet. A core part of my faith is that humanity is good, not evil.”
- Jericho Road Project. Nonprofit organization started by the First Parish in Concord, Mass., links white-collar professionals with other nonprofits in struggling cities. (jerichoroadproject.org)