Fayetteville, N.C. — For the Fayetteville community, Moses Mathis' annual bicycle giveaway is as much a part of Christmas as candles in the window and caroling.
Mathis, more commonly known as the "Bicycle Man," has been repairing used bicycles and giving them to children from low-income families for 17 years. He said he spends eight hours a day for 10 months in his workshop on Black & Decker Road because of the smiles, hugs and thanks he gets one day each December.
“We have so many kids that are underprivileged, who don’t have a gift for Christmas, who don’t have a father in the home,” he said. “We try to fill in the gaps, to let the kids know that there are adults out here that really love them and care for them.”
This year, 1,042 bikes were donated, repaired and put on display Tuesday for eager children, each of whom had gotten a voucher for a bike after applying through their schools or the Department of Social Services. The number of bikes was almost double the 550 bikes Mathis gave away last year.
Alana Goodman, 4, was excited to pick out her own bike.
“About a week ago, she told me she wanted a bike for Christmas,” said her mother, Teanna Goodman. "She's just happy. That's the most important part right before Christmas."
Tyrique Graham, 9, said he found himself a winner among Mathis' collection.
"If I race my cousin, I probably could win," Tyrique said.
Ten-year-old Kierra Johnson said she picked a bike that looked pretty and was the right height for her. She already has a bike at home, but she said she wanted to use her voucher so she could give her bike to someone she calls her "auntie."
"Since I had a coupon, I would come here and get a bike. That way I could give her a bike," Kierra said.
Mathis said the annual bike giveaway brings out the Christmas spirit in everyone. A boy even elevated Mathis to a higher status because of the event.
"The little boy (told his mother), 'No, that's not the bicycle man. He's an angel,'" Mathis said. "I just didn't know what to say."