Chuck Anania is not a professional cyclist, but in July he started a 500-mile bike ride covering New Jersey, New York and Connecticut in hopes of helping struggling homeowners.
On July 24, Anania started his bike ride from Trenton, and after winding his way through more than 100 communities, he will land in New York City's Times Square on Aug. 7.
Along the way, he will make a stop in Montclair on Sunday, July 29.
"It's called 500 Miles for 500 Roofs, which is part of our Roof4Roof project," explained Anania, a veteran residential and commerical roofer based in North Arlington. "I started Roof4Roof to help people who are struggling in this economy and need roof repairs."
"What we do is simple: For every new roof we install, whether it's for a home or business, we help families in need," he said. "The bike tour is to raise awareness for people who need help."
As part of the effort, for every residential customer in New Jersey, New York or Connecticut who hires Anania's company, he repairs a needy person's roof free of charge. For each commercial job, he works on homes in Colombia and Guatemala "where some houses don't even have roofs."
Anania told Patch that as a businessperson, he certainly wants to attract customers for his roofing company, but more than that, he said, "I want to make a difference in the world and help people."
He first began replacing roofs for families in need in 2010. What inspired him to focus on helping others was a visit to the South American country of Colombia.
"There's a level of poverty there that's pretty drastic," he said. "I looked for ways for years to give back in a systematic, permanent way, not just when a disaster strikes but consistently," he said.
In response, he went to work installing new roofs the town of Cali, Colombia. And when he returned to New Jersey, Roof4Roof was born.
Anania said he has had difficulty finding families in need in the tri-state area—not because they don't exist, especially in this economy, but because it's a subject many people don't discuss.
The roofer said Habitat for Humanity in New Jersey and local churches have referred some families to Roof4Roof, but the waiting list of people to help is nearly empty.
"People don't always come forward, or they don't know," he explained, adding that he perhaps can find people to help among the people in lower Lake Hiawatha whose homes were severely damaged in Hurricane Irene last year."So the bike ride isn't really about raising funds, although we'll accept them to help in repairing roofs for people in need in South America.
"This is about raising awareness. I want families to learn that this program exists and can help them."
For more information about Roof4Roof and to find out the specifics of Anania's appearances and how you can receive help, visit Roof4Roof.org.