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South Wichita church hands out bikes, presents

If you've ever needed to feel grateful for what you have, Believers Tabernacle was the place to be Saturday morning. Hundreds of parents and caregivers stood in line in the cold — some spent the night — for the chance at a new bike or presents for their children.

The Wichita Dream Center, a nonprofit outreach group associated with the church, gave out 500 new bikes and 1,000 presents on Saturday with donations from the community and discounts from Huffy and Mattel.

About 170 volunteers, including Santa Claus, handed out presents and greeted visitors.

Six-year-old Shawn-Dre was one of the lucky kids in line early enough to get a bike.

"He's been begging for one for two years," said his mother, Andrea, who did not want to give her last name because she felt embarrassed she couldn't afford to get a bike for her son for his last birthday.

Shawn-Dre said he was super-excited to get a bike. He's never had one before, much less ridden one.

Andrea said she brought her family to the church at Mount Vernon and Hillside around 9:15 a.m.

"The line wasn't too bad, and everyone's been super-nice," she said.

The first 500 children in line, who had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian, received bracelets that identified them as the owner of a new bike.

The project cost about $40,000, said senior pastor Marty Freeman.

Donations came from members of the church as well as from others in the community, he said. About 80 percent came from outside the church, which Freeman said was touching.

"We just want people to know that we care about them," he said.

The celebration was open to everyone, although the Wichita Dream Center focuses on certain low-income neighborhoods, busing in children every Saturday for services and activities.

Freeman would like to move the holiday party to somewhere like Century II next year to be able to serve more people.

It was standing-room-only inside the church, where two services were held simultaneously.

Youth groups provided music and danced.

Outside, the line continued to form as those who didn't get there in time for a bike waited for a present.

Gifts were organized by age and gender with color-coded wrapping paper.

Gifts included dolls, Star Wars figurines and makeup kits, said Delnita Hazell, an administrative assistant at the church.

It took 2 1/2 hours Monday night to wrap all the presents. Volunteers, including members of the Coasters Bike Club, helped put the bikes together, she said.

Other churches also gave out presents Saturday.

His Helping Hands ministry, a project of Central Christian Church, gave gifts to families who preregistered. The church expected to serve more than 600 families Saturday.

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