Biker rides to shed light on homelessness

Bordering a gingerbread house with icing, gummy bears and gum drops was the best time Valencia Logan has had with her children in months.

The Augusta mother and her three children have lived at the Salvation Army's homeless shelter since March. On Thursday evening, Ms. Logan said she was able to forget about her situation and bask in her children's joy over smearing icing all over her clothes.

"This is a great activity. They could go outside or just sit under me, but this is something where I really get to be interactive with them," she said at the shelter Thursday. "This is probably something you would only get to do once or twice in your lifetime."

Trish Karter, the owner of a Boston baking company, Dancing Deer, gave about five mothers the opportunity to enjoy some baked goods and time with their children.

The Boston woman started a bike ride Wednesday in Atlanta that will stretch 1,500 miles over 15 days.

She made a stop in Augusta to distribute her company's Sweet Home gingerbread houses -- 35 percent of the sales of the treats go toward college scholarships for homeless and low-income mothers.

She plans to visit 15 shelters by Mother's Day and spread awareness about homelessness.

"We're trying to get single mothers into permanent homes. The education can help," Ms. Karter said. "I hope I can show that private businesses need to think about more than money. Their success is also measured in what effect they have on a society."

Every year, 600,000 families with 1.35 million children experience homelessness in the United States, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. In January, more than 550 women and children were homeless in Augusta, according to a CSRA Economic Opportunity Authority survey.

Ingrid Tutt, assistant development director, said she hoped that Ms. Karter's efforts would change the perception of homelessness.

"She understands that the face of homelessness has changed," Ms. Tutt said. "It's not the stranger on the corner. It's mothers. It's men who do work, and just don't have a home."

Ms. Karter said she plans to expand the Sweet Home project nationally.

The project could be a benefit to many local women, Ms. Logan said.

She said she hopes she and her three children will one day attend college.

"Homelessness is a big issue, especially for mothers with their children," Ms. Logan said. "I never thought I would be in this situation, but it's nice to know someone does care and wants to help."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.

by the numbers

172

Women and children living in homeless shelters in Augusta

379

Women and children living on the streets in Augusta

600,000

Homeless families in the U.S.

Track Trish Karter's ride and learn about the Sweet Home project at www.dancingdeer.com/ride.