Riding for roofing

As late summer approaches, it’s ordinary to see bicyclists rolling down Greenwich Avenue, but in New Jersey resident Chuck Anania’s case, hitting the avenue was part of the extraordinary 500-mile bike ride through New Jersey, New York and Connecticut that he completed on Tuesday in just 15 days.

Mr. Anania took on the grueling adventure to generate awareness for Roof4Roof — a program he founded that helps struggling families with emergency roofing repairs. This program works through establishing a kind of one-for-one arrangement. For every new roof installed by Mr. Anania’s New Jersey-based roofing company, Roof4Roof provides emergency repair, free of charge, for a local family in need.

In an interview with the Post when he passed through Greenwich on Monday, Mr. Anania said the concept for the Roof4Roof project began when he visited Colombia in 2010. After encountering many families living in houses covered by dangerous, collapsing and leaky roofs throughout the country, Mr. Anania decided he needed to help.

“I was moved to do something about the poverty I saw there,” he recalled.

A few months later, he viewed a television program about TOMS Shoes, a company that donates a pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair purchased. The “one-for-one” model clicked with him, prompting the 2010 launch of the Roof4Roof program in Colombia, Mr. Anania explained.

The program took off and has since been launched in Guatemala, but ever since the project began, people have wondered why Mr. Anania didn’t look to his own backyard, he said.

Fortunately, enough of his employees volunteered to help out locally, allowing Mr. Anania to establish the program in the tri-state area this past June. The problem, he said, is that many people don’t know the program exists so they are not seeking help. Although Habitat for Humanity of New Jersey and local churches have referred him to needy families who require roof repair or replacement, Mr. Anania said he needed to spread the word further.

Enter the “500 miles-4-500 roofs” cycling event he completed over the course of two weeks, between July 24 and Aug. 7. It took him right through the tri-state area, including right down Greenwich Avenue.

“I just decided that a good way to get the word out would be to do something crazy like this,” Mr. Anania said.

A few dozen people have called to ask for Roof4Roof’s help since the inception of his trip, which is exactly why he chose to take on the challenge in the first place, he added.

“I’m just trying to do my best,” Mr. Anania explained. “I’m not an athlete.”

Athlete or not, Mr. Anania has proven he’s willing to work hard. The 500 miles-4-500 roofs event kept him cycling 35 to 40 miles a day while he continued to run his business from the road at night. And every mile has been worth it, he said.

Considering that many people in the world are starving or can’t afford their homes, “I have no problems,” he said. “If the worst thing I have to do is ride my bike for two weeks, then life is great.”

Ultimately, Mr. Anania hopes that his trip has made people realize that Roof4Roof is “a resource people can go to in the community” and not a gimmick or ploy for attention, he said.

“Hopefully enough people will realize this is something that’s here to stay.”

However, Mr. Anania’s dedication to the program and its permanence don’t necessarily need to be verbalized. A freshly engraved tattoo of the Roof4Roof logo may be found on his left forearm, a symbol of his commitment to helping those in need.

“It’s a reminder in case I forget why I’m working 16 hours a day,” he joked.

All kidding aside, having a stable roof is extremely important, Mr. Anania said.

“Having a safe, dry, leak-free roof is really a quality of life issue,” he explained.

And while many people remember to help those in need after severe natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Anania said it’s important to remember that “people could use help every day.”

All in all, Mr. Anania said his trek through 130 tri-state towns went according to plan and along the way took him through a number of historic, charming places like Greenwich. Additionally, 12 hotels on his route supported the Roof4Roof cause by providing him with free rooms for the night when he passed through, he said.

Looking to the future, Mr. Anania said he plans to expand Roof4Roof into India next and see where the project takes him from there.

Until then, Mr. Anania hopes that between the 500-mile bike tour and related follow-up events, his program will pick up enough momentum to keep going strong. More information may be found online at roof4roof.org.


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