- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

Families who are struggling to provide gifts at Christmas are getting some help from traditional sources in two North Carolina cities.

The widow of “The Bicycle Man” will continue his tradition of a Christmas giveaway to needy children in the Fayetteville area this weekend. Last month, Ann Mathis was searching for people who could help repair the nearly 200 bikes sitting in a warehouse so they could be given away. Her ministry plans to give away the bikes on Saturday.

In Raleigh, Triangle Spokes Group is partnering with The Salvation Army of Wake County to distribute new bicycles. It’s the eighth year that the group has given away bicycles, and it has set a goal this year of giving away 500 new bicycles and helmets. The three-day giveaway ends Friday.

Mathis, 68, is the wife of the program’s founder, Moses, who died last year at age 76. They started the program in their home garage in 1990.

“I promised I would keep it going as long as I could,” Mathis told The Fayetteville Observer last month.

Last Christmas, the charity gave away 1,042 bicycles, and Mathis anticipates reaching a similar number this year. The children are selected by social workers at the schools.

Triangle Spokes Group is the creation of former teacher Ashley Wilson, who had a relative running a similar program in Charlotte for the last 20 years. The Spokes Group gave away 17 bikes in its inaugural year of 1994, and expects to give away more than 2,000 bicycles this holiday.

Wilson decided to duplicate the program in Raleigh, and enlisted a friend’s help.

“This bike giveaway is just a remarkable event. We can’t imagine children without a bike,” Wilson said.

The organization relies on financial donations to purchase the new bikes and helmets. Board member and spokeswoman Kristie Bramwell said The Salvation Army determined there were some 4,000 families and 9,000 children in need of help locally.

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