QUINCY — Mark Wiewel knows his own personal "Bike for Food Pantries" ministry will end some day, but that time remains somewhere down the road.
Wiewel, 63, has helped raise more than $750,000 for local food pantries since 2006. He has peddled more than 20,000 miles on his recumbent bike, mostly across the long and winding roads of Illinois, but also in Missouri and Iowa.
"As long as my health is good, I plan to keep doing it," said Wiewel, whose efforts have assisted 19 different food pantries over the past 15 years.
Wiewel, who is retired from a career in local business and now serves as a crisis chaplain, says he has continued to ride his bike and raise funding for food pantries because it such a rewarding experience.
"What good is faith if there are not good deeds to go with it?" Wiewel asked. "If you don't help people, your faith is dead."
And helping people is an integral part of Wiewel's nature.
"That has been (my interest) all along," he said.
Wiewel says he is motivated by a verse in Philippians: "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me."
"It is printed on all 'Bike for Food' T-shirts and jerseys," Wiewel said.
How did this pilgrimage all begin?
Wiewel always loved the long-distances rides and ultimately decided to combine his biking with raising money. Along the way, he discovered the joy of using a recumbent bike, which lets the rider sit back while pedaling, which is easier on the body in some respects but more difficult in others.
Wiewel often refers to the recumbent bike as a "recliner on wheels."
"It's all leg power," he said. "Ninety percent of your body weight is on that back wheel. These bikes are really fast going downhill and really slow going uphill."
That's where the bike's 27 gears come in handy — to make pedaling easier going up and down steep inclines.
Wiewel's goal this year is to ride 300 miles for each of the five food pantries he's currently trying to assist, or about 1,500 total miles by the end of the calendar year. Wiewel works year-round at this ministry/project.
"The cool thing is that people donate directly to the food pantries, and 100 percent of the money donated goes directly to those food pantries," Wiewel said. "There are a lot of generous people. I've learned so much over the years, just talking with people."
Food pantries benefitting this year from Wiewel's efforts are those coordinated by Canton (Mo.) churches, Douglass Community Food Services in Hannibal (Mo.), GPS Ministries in Quincy, Quanada in Quincy and St. Francis Solanus Church in Quincy.
Wiewel said the 2020 goal for funds to be raised is $66,000. A year ago, $60,000 was generated through donations spurred by Wiewel's rides.
A portion of the total donations of checks, cash, food, personal products and supplies that are received and clearly marked with the word "Bike" will be matched by Wiewel.
Once Wiewel feels he is no longer able to raise funds for the food pantries via the bike rides (he had hip replacement surgery early this year and has overcome other physical problems in the past 15 years), he says the fundraising will be in hood hands.
"My kids will eventually take it over," a proud Wiewel said.
That means the "Bike for Food Pantries" program will be headed by Caroline, 34, Stephanie, 27, Anthony, 31, Matthew, 26, and Mark, 24, who have all been familiarizing themselves with fundraising operations in recent years.
Those wishing to donate to the "Bike for Food Pantries" project, can mail checks to Wiewel at 2211 Broadway, Quincy IL 62301. The word "Bike" should marked on the checks. Wiewel said he will delivered the checks to the specific pantries. He also said all donations are tax deductible.
Questions about "Bike for Food Pantries" may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Wiewel can be reached by phone at 217-242-5035.