The 62-year-old Fayetteville man gave away hundreds of bicycles Thursday, touching the hearts of more than 600 children and their families.
A new bicycle was a wish come true for 10-year-old James Newell, and an even bigger Christmas present for James's mother, Dorthea.
"I don't have the money, no way of getting the money to buy a bike for him," says Dorthea Newell. "Just coming out here and letting him pick one is a blessing."
After looking and searching through the hundreds of bikes, James finally found a one to call his own.
"I'm just glad to be here today," he says.
For eight years, Mathis has been taking parts and pieces and rebuilding old bikes. It started eight years ago when he rebuilt a bike for one neighborhood child.
Since then his community outreach has expanded. The community pitches in too -- sheriff's deputies collect bikes, local businesses donate new ones and the Pilot Club gives helmets.
Children who once received bikes now rebuild them with Mathis after school.
"Mr. Mathis was my first mentor in life," says Rodney Ingram. "He was giving out bikes, and I felt like I needed to help him."
Rebuilding the bikes has turned into such an operation, Mathis can no longer operate out of his garage. He has moved into a workshop on Ramsey Street, and hopes to soon turn that workshop into an outreach center for children.
And while most of the bikes are from recycled parts, the smiles show they are brand new in the eyes of the children who receive them.
"I love this bike. I always wanted a bike like this because it's a trick bike," says Robert Carrington. "I love the helmet too because whenever I ride, if I fall off, I won't get hurt because I have a helmet."
"I think he's a cool guy," Robert says.
Mathis says it is a labor of love.
"I consider myself blessed because God has been good to me and my family, and I want to find a way to put it back in the community," Mathis says.
Mathis says people may drop off donations to 3611 Ramsey St. in Fayetteville. He also says he does not mind getting phone calls at(910) 822-2034, but he would prefer if people call him after Christmas.
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