Bicycles have always been important to Pastor Mike Fongemy.
As a child, he built his own bikes. He fished one out of a pond and fixed it up. Another he got out of the garbage.
"I made something out of nothing," he said.
Now Fongemy has parlayed his love for bikes into a growing ministry in which he and several church members of Crossroads Church repair, refurbish and give away used bicycles.
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"I had this crazy idea (several years ago)," said Fongemy, the pastor of Crossroads Church's Kannapolis campus. "I thought I would get 10 or so bikes and get them ready for some kids for Christmas."
He put the word out that he was looking for used bikes. One person called with 12 bicycles, another with 30. One elderly man, who had had a similar ministry, donated 50.
The ministry grew, and in 2008 it gave away 40 bicycles to the YMCA's Empty Stocking Fund. In all they've fixed and donated more than 250 bicycles.
The ministry doesn't have a budget or advertising or a catchy name. Fongemy said the ministry "lives off word of mouth," and he's "pretty vocal" in Kannapolis about the ministry.
Fongemy and several volunteers work on the bikes in a shed on Crossroads' Concord campus. The days he goes to the shed and finds donated bikes by the door are like Christmas, he said.
He enjoys fixing the bikes, using some for parts to fix others. If the ministry receives cash donations, Fongemy buys new tires or other bike accessories.
Fongemy said his goal is to get the bikes working, and he does many repairs a bicycle shop might do only if it had original parts. Volunteer Paul Hayes works on making each bike look good.
"I've seen him make a rusted-over bike look brand new," Fongemy said. "I have the ability to make them run. He has the ability to make them look beautiful."
The fixed-up bicycles have traveled as far as Africa. Some have gone to children living in poverty in West Virginia, where Crossroads/Kannapolis has sent mission teams.
The ministry donated several bikes to men they met at the Salvation Army. "That's broadened how far (the men) can travel and given them the ability to get to work sites," Fongemy said.
They've given bikes to schoolchildren, senior adults and homeless people.
"One homeless man rode his bike until the tire fell off and the rim broke," Fongemy said. "We just gave him a bike, and it was like his prized possession.
"Some of the stories that have come back have been pretty amazing," Fongemy said. "For me, it's like being the hands and feet for somebody who would not have the opportunity to have a bike."
The bike ministry accepts used bicycles, which can be dropped off at Crossroads Church's Concord campus, 220 George W. Liles Parkway N.W., Concord. For more information, e-mail Fongemy at firstname.lastname@example.org.