Dana Mathis is known around Fair Oaks Park as the “bike lady.” The first Saturday of every month, she is a flurry of activity. Phone calls need to be made and, of course, bikes need to be lined up on the grass. That’s why the bike lady’s here – to make sure neighborhood children who need and want bikes get bikes.

There’s no formal sign-up. Children who live in apartment complexes behind the park just show up and choose from more than 50 bikes displayed across the lawn. The giveaway also offers free bike repair and “how to” fix-it tips, so the older children can learn to patch up problems themselves. Mathis has organized this monthly giveaway since April, but the idea for the bike giveaway began at Christmas 2004.

The congregation at Lake Highlands Church, where Mathis attends, has quite a few African refugees, and the parishioners wanted to give them Christmas presents. Topping the wish list for several children were bicycles. On the day they were delivered, Mathis could not believe the response from the area.

“I drove in a parking lot, and I had three or four bikes in the back of my truck, and all of these kids just swarmed to the truck,” Mathis says. “They were like, ‘Is that for me? Is that for me?’”

This experience gave Mathis a vision for a bike giveaway. She understood that these families were struggling to put food on the table, and bicycles were a luxury they could not afford. She presented the idea to her church, and plans for the giveaway went into action.

Mathis collected 250 bikes from friends, church members and local businesses such as Bikes for Tikes and the Richardson Bike Mart, all avenues where Mathis still finds her bikes. At the giveaway in May 2005, every bike was taken, but 100 children were left without one. Mathis took down their names and phone numbers and put them on a list.

Ten bikes at a time, Mathis made sure the children received their bikes.

This year, Mathis decided against one big giveaway, instead choosing the smaller, once-a-month style, but she continues to keep track of the children still waiting.

“I’ve got my list of kids who were here last month who didn’t get a bike,” Mathis says. “I’ve got their names, so I start calling them and say, ‘I’m here.’”

Her volunteers include her daughter, son and anyone else available, but a few of the African refugees from Mathis’ church usually show up to translate so she can communicate with the children. One of the regulars is Robert Maplay, a high school student who came to the United States two years ago from Liberia. He became involved with the giveaway through the church, but it evolved into more for him.

“I have been given so much,” Maplay says. “I like to help others get what they need.”

Mathis hopes to continue the project as long as she has the bikes to give.