Erik Andrews has been volunteering with Appalachia Service Project every summer for the last 24 years.

When he learned his favorite volunteer gig — helping ASP make low-income homes in Central Appalachia warmer, safer and drier — would be shut down this year by the COVID-19 pandemic, he decided to take a different approach.

On June 7, the day he had planned to leave his home in Ohio for a week’s work with ASP in rural West Virginia, Andrews instead dipped his bicycle tire in the Pacific Ocean and struck out on a solo ride across the United States to raise funds and awareness for the ministry that has been helping people in the surrounding mountains for the past five decades.

Some 2,700 miles, the breadth of seven states and more than $20,000 in donations later, Andrews rode into ASP warehouse on the Bristol Highway Monday morning for welcome reception and a surprise presentation of the highest honor the ministry bestows.

ASP President and CEO Walter Crouch did the honors, presenting Andrews with the ministry’s Medal of Distinction that recognizes ASP volunteers who go above and beyond all expectations. And in Andrews’ case, Crouch said, “for doing something creative and wonderful for the people of Central Appalachia.”

Crouch also shared news of a new $5,000 matching donation that could boost Andrews fundraising total to more than $30,000. “What a blessing that would be,” Andrews said.

“We have a saying that ‘when we serve others, we serve ourselves.’ That’s what this has been. We’ve served ourselves. It’s been an adventure I will never forget,” he said.

With 500 miles ahead of him on the final leg of his cross country route on through Virginia to Washington, D.C., then down through Maryland to the shore, Andrews hit the road again on Tuesday. But not without some final words of appreciation from Crouch.

“Thank you,” Crouch told him. “In a year like 2020, thank God for bright spots.”

For more information and a chance to join Andrews’ fundraising, the progress of his journey is being documented at https://give.everydayhero.com/us/ridetoserve-warmersaferdrier.

Donations may be made at the website or by mail to Appalachia Service Project, 4523 Bristol Highway, Johnson City, TN 37601. More information about ASP may be obtained by calling 423-854-8800 or online at asphome.org.