When the Presto convenience store at 13th and Oliver opened at 6 a.m. on Saturday, they were already there.
Cars hovered in nearby parking lots, their drivers waiting for the line to start forming for a gas giveaway that later would turn the intersection into a traffic situation requiring police intervention.
The event was arranged DeAndre Morris, the senior pastor of Kingdom Harvest Church, which holds its Sunday services at Coleman Middle School. The congregation donated $5,000 toward the project, which Morris said was intended to celebrate Easter.
The church paired with local radio station Power 93.9-FM, which all week advertised a plan to give away $20 of gas to drivers of the first 250 cars to arrive at the station at noon on Saturday. It’s an idea Morris borrowed from a church he used to lead in Cleveland.
“We thought we could bless the most people through gas,” Morris said.
By 12:30 p.m., a single-file line of cars stretched south from 13th and Oliver all the way to Central and Oliver. Police and volunteers worked the cross streets, preventing potential cutters and keeping intersections clear. Around 40 congregation members staffed the event, some heading traffic, some pumping gas, others washing windows. By 1:30 p.m., the event was over.
Keesha Whitsett got to the front of the line around 12:30 and said she had been waiting for two hours. Her kids, who were in the car with her, were hot and tired of waiting but were about to be rewarded with lunch at Chuck E. Cheese’s.
Whitsett said she heard about the promotion on the radio and figured it was something worth waiting for.
“Some people can’t afford gas, especially now that it’s gone up to $3.75,” said Whitsett, whose gas tank holds about $45 worth these days. “This is nice. It’s nice for everybody.”