Mark Wiewel has pedaled more than 20,000 miles since 2006 for his Bike For Food mission to bring food and other needed resources to local food pantries.
Wiewel began his quest with the goal of raising $250 for four local food pantries. He ended up doubling that amount, pedaling 200 miles for each pantry on the recumbent bicycle he jokingly refers to as his "recliner on wheels." A purple butterfly decal adorns the windshield in honor of his wife, Karen, who passed away in 2015 after a courageous battle with cancer.
Each year, he matches donated funds to give to six area food banks — Canton Council of Churches in Canton, Douglass Community Services in Hannibal and GPS Ministries, Quanada Food Pantry, Quincy Catholic Charities and St. Francis Food Pantry in Quincy, Ill.
Wiewel presented a $6,029 check Thursday, May 23, to Peggy Walley, community support services director, to help purchase food, personal hygiene items and other necessities.
Walley said the food pantry at Douglass Community Services was low on food in past years. Thanks to community efforts like Wiewel's Bike For Food and donations from individuals and companies like County Market and Walmart, the pantry now has a steady flow of food and other necessities.
After Wiewel presented the donation, Walley expressed her gratitude for Wiewel's yearly efforts.
"You sure do a good job," she said. "We appreciate it."
From the beginning, Wiewel said God has blessed the Bike For Food program and each of the food pantries and organizations affected by his journey. The words of Phillipians 4:13 cover the back of his bright green shirt — "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
"I was raised with that as the family Scripture verse," he said. And those words regularly provide inspiration to fellow cyclists.
"That Scripture verse kept me going," a fellow rider told Wiewel as he pedaled through his fatigue.
Wiewel urged community members to join in the cause. So far, his efforts have raised a total of $664,309. His goal for 2016 is to raise $60,000 and pedal 1,200 miles to donate to six area food pantries. He will ride 300 miles the week of June 1-7 and cover the remaining distance between June and November.
"Please be as generous as you can — demand for food is at an all-time high," he said. "Area food pantries desperately need your donations of cash, checks, food, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products."
To donate, make checks payable to local food pantries with the word "Bike" on the memo line, and mail them directly to the organization.
To find out more about the Bike For Food program, please visit BikeForFood.org or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.