Ed Winter has turned his shed into Santa’s Workshop. The 75-year-old Huntersville retiree has spent the past several weeks in it, rebuilding, repairing and rehabbing nearly 40 bicycles that will be handed out to children on Christmas Eve at Angels and Sparrows Soup Kitchen.
This is the second year Winter has donated bikes to the Huntersville nonprofit agency. Last year, he dropped off three bikes.
“I didn’t know smiles could reach from ear to ear,” he said. “It was so heartwarming. There was no doubt I was going to give more this year.”
So he reached out to his members of his church at Independence Hill Baptist Church. They hung fliers and spread the word around Lake Norman: Ed needs bikes.
“Then it started,” he said. “They just started pouring in.”
The bikes came in faster than he could repair them. He’s been able to repair about three bikes a day. And Winter is taking great pride in his work – all the bikes must meet his standards.
“They need to look as good as they did the day they came out of the shop,” he said.
The Spirit Cyclist in Huntersville is selling tires, chains and other parts for the bikes to Winter at the store’s cost. The store and its employees also donated three bikes. The Trek store at Northlake Mall also donated a bike and some parts.
It’s “the North Meck” spirit, Angels and Sparrows founder Sandy Tilley said.
“If you tell the people of North Mecklenburg you need something,” she said, “just get out of the way because they are going to give to you more than you know what to do with.”
And Tilley has been good to them. Last Christmas, she passed out gifts to more than 850 children – more than 6,000 donated toys in all.
That was a bit much for the small agency, which runs totally on donations of food and money from local residents, Tilley said. She hopes to refocus this year’s celebration on Lake Norman families.
To receive gifts, you must have a ticket from Angels and Sparrows. To make sure the tickets go to North Mecklenburg County needy families, she will hand out tickets to the more hundreds of families who visit Angels and Sparrows, and its food pantries, each week.
“We’ve been treated so well by the North Meck community,” she said. “I want to make sure we’re serving them totally. ... And people like Ed (Winter) and the volunteers that come here every day are what make that possible.”
Winter doesn’t take much of the credit. He’s quick to point out the hours he puts in each day repairing the bikes pale in comparison to the number Tilley and her volunteers work each day.
“I’m just glad I could help out,” he said. “That’s what makes me happy. Making sure a bunch of kids have a good Christmas, that’s why I do this. But Sandy really puts her heart and soul into her work. She is a Godsend.”
Angels and Sparrows is still collecting toys for their Christmas party, but what Tilley really needs now is grocery store gift cards to buy fresh foods and volunteers to serve families and help out around the soup kitchen.
Winter said he will wouldn’t miss the celebration.
“I have 12-inch bikes up to 26-inch bikes,” he said. “For the kids and their parents. I can’t wait to see the faces of these kids. It’s truly an amazing site.”