By Lance Wise
Temperatures hovering near 32 degrees, a blustery winter wind and the threat of snow didn't dampen the enthusiasm of children who arrived at Fee Fee Baptist Church, Bridgeton, on Dec. 3 to receive a "new" bicycle.
The church also gave each of the 102 children who received bikes a new bicycle helmet. As long as supplies lasted, volunteers distributed stocking caps as well.
Wanting to minister to others, Dale Hinzpeter, John Chadwick and Cameron Kerns developed the idea for the first-of-its-kind event at Fee Fee.
In April, the men approached Frank Costello, St. Louis coordinator for Wheels for the World, about restoring motorized wheelchairs for the organization. Founded by Joni Eareckson Tada, Wheels for the World collects and restores used wheelchairs for distribution overseas.
But Wheels for the World leaders decided motorized chairs are not viable in many areas.
Costello suggested the men collect and restore used bicycles and tricycles to give away at Christmas to children in low-income families. And he invited them to use space in the Wheels for the World warehouse.
Hinzpeter, Chadwick and Kerns dubbed the ministry, "Cycles for Joy."
Fee Fee hosted a collection day on June 11 that garnered 302 bikes by noon. With other contributions, the bike total reached more than 350 by June 15. Volunteers assisted the three with restoration.
"It has been amazing to see how God provided what we needed when we needed it," Hinzpeter said. "Having enough parts was an immediate problem for us, and then we were given a very generous discount on parts by Touring Cyclists. That helped immensely.
"Then we also wanted to give each child a helmet, and we were led to an organization that sells salesmen's samples.
"Among the other things they were selling were bicycle helmets. They said any helmets they couldn't sell would be donated to charity," he added.
"We told them about the Cycles for Joy ministry...and a few days later, they called to tell us their sale was over and that they had 280 helmets for us. Praise God!"
Touring Cyclists also contributed about 50 bicycles the company had received as trade-ins during an October sale.
"Most of those bicycles were in surprisingly good condition," Chadwick recalled. "They only needed a little bit of work to get them ready....
"And then there were the folks who brought us bicycles that looked brand new. Some of them still had price tags on them."
Fee Fee leaders approached schools and agencies for recommendations of families with children who would benefit from the Cycles for Joy ministry.
Fee Fee's director of purpose-driven ministries, Derald Harris, contacted staff at Pattonville School District and Missouri Baptist Children's Home social workers. He also publicized the outreach through church publications.
Each child was pre-registered for the giveaway.
Hinzpeter, Chadwick and Kerns called the event a "grand success" and hope they have started a new Christmas tradition. (12-15-05)
Lance Wise is a member of Fee Fee Baptist Church.