Hickory Hills Police Chief Charles Hobart pumps gas for a senior citizen. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Hickory Hills Police Chief Charles Hobart pumps gas for a senior citizen. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

400 motorists get free gas at Hickory Hill station as police chief pitches in

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By Steve Metsch

Shirley Jenkins wasn’t about to miss her chance to get $50 worth of gasoline for free, even it meant getting in line around 6 a.m.

The Justice woman, 63, waited three hours to pump free gas into her SUV Thursday morning at Falcon Fuel in Hickory Hills.

“I need the gas,” Jenkins said. “Three hours. I was all the way around there on 91st Street.”

Asked if the wait was worth it, Jenkins said, “Well, I’m getting the gas.”

She wasn’t alone.

reporter HH gas giveaway2 shirley

Shirley Jenkins of Justice was all smiles despite waiting three hours for $50 worth of free gas.

Four hundred motorists each got $50 of free gas in a giveaway sponsored by businessman Willie Wilson, who paid for $1 million worth of gasoline at 50 stations in Chicago and the suburbs on Thursday.

Hickory Hills police said cars began lining up around 4:45 a.m. for the giveaway that started at 7 a.m.

Demand was so high at Falcon Fuel, 87th Street and Roberts Road, the line stretched 1.5 miles at 6:15 a.m., Police Chief Charles Hobart said.

Vehicles were on 87th Street west one mile to 88th Avenue and then another half-mile south to 91st Street.

“We like to help people,” cashier Peter Lobo said. “All the pumps are pre-paid. They don’t have to come in.”

Station owner Bill Stefan thought Wilson had a great idea.

“There are no strings attached,” Stefan said. “It’s a good deal for everybody.”

Stefan did not see many people coming inside for other purchases like lottery tickets, snacks or coffee.

reporter HH gas giveaway4 deputy chief

Hickory Hills Deputy Police Chief Mark Benaitis was busy directing traffic.

“It’s mostly gas,” Stefan said. “We want to keep people moving through.”

Hickory Hills Deputy Police Chief Mark Benaitis was in charge of that.

Benaitis waved vehicles to pumps when they became available.

“We had some line jumpers, but our auxiliary officers and our officers handled them great,” Benaitis said. “There haven’t been any major problems.”

He thanked the public works department that was out early strategically placing barricades and cones to ensure the line stayed on 87th Street.

“The chief did a great job with planning,” Benaitis said.

reporter HH gas giveaway5 cars in line

The line of vehicles stretched far down 87th Street. (Supplied photo)

Hobart – who pumped gas for some senior citizens – said the giveaway was “going wonderfully.”

“We are prepared. The gas station has been cooperative. And the people have been smiling all morning getting the free gas. It’s a wonderful event so far,” Hobart said around 9 a.m.

“As soon as we heard about the event last weekend, we sat down and started working on a game plan,” Hobart said.

Line jumpers “kindly left the line when asked to,” Hobart said, adding he did not fill his own tank. “That would be inappropriate.”

But Hobart was happy for those who did.

“I have no idea what Dr. Wilson’s intentions are,” Hobart said. “I think it’s wonderful for anybody to give $1 million of their own money to help people. Absolutely.”

Benny Arce, 42, of Oak Lawn, and Carrie Thompson, 48, of Palos Hills, did not mind their wait of two hours and 20 minutes.

“Gas prices are expensive and I don’t live far away” Arce said.

Thompson agreed: “Times are hard. We’re really appreciative to Willie for doing this.”

One young woman said “no” when asked if her two-hour wait was worth it. But she was the exception. There were many happy motorists like Jenkins.

After Jenkins got her free gas, she was asked the big question after her three-hour wait: “How’s your bladder?”

“I’ve gotta go,” Jenkins said with a laugh as she drove away.

reporter HH gas giveaway3 carrie

Carrie Thompson, of Palos Hills, arrived at 6:40 a.m. and waited two hours and 20 minutes.

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