Volunteer Bill Bailey, of Evanston, pumps gas Thursday morning during the Dr. Willie Wilson Foundation gas giveaway at Mobil Gas on Green Bay Road. (Photo by Richard Cahan)

The intersection of Green Bay Road and Foster Street was the happiest place around for a few hours Thursday morning.

Evanston employee William Reed directs drivers off Green Bay Road into the Mobil station. “Everybody is in a good mood,” he said. (Photo by Richard Cahan)

That’s when a total of $20,000 worth of gas was given away to about 400 drivers at Mobil Gas, 1950 Green Bay Road.

“I didn’t see one grouchy person,” said Simone Brooks, one of 10 volunteers pumping gas.

The Dr. Willie Wilson Foundation paid for the gas. The Mobil station was one of 50 outlets in and around Chicago dispensing free gas Thursday in the name of Wilson, a Chicago businessman who has failed in repeated electoral bids for mayor of Chicago, U.S. senator and president of the United States.

As much as people enjoyed the gift, many talked about how much they have been affected by the high cost of gas, now hovering in the $5 a gallon range. “It’s a crazy time in the world that this needs to be done,” said Krishon Pinkins, who came to the station with his girlfriend for 10 gallons of gas.

“I’m joyful. It’s a great start to my day” said Krishon Pinkins, who rode to Evanston with girlfriend Elizabeth Onofre for the gas giveaway. (Photo by Richard Cahan)

An Evanston woman right behind him filled up her 2005 Lincoln Aviator and said, “So today, I don’t have to walk.” She said she can’t afford to buy gas these days. “This came out of nowhere,” she said. “It’s a real blessing.”

Lucy Wilson Cunningham drives up for her gas on Thursday morning. “I love you guys. I want to thank you so much,” she said as she drove away after getting $38.26 worth of fuel. (Photo by Richard Cahan)

Lucy Wilson Cunningham, who lives in Skokie, started waiting at 5:15 a.m. She made it to the pump about 7 a.m. “I still work every day, but by the time you pay all your bills, your mortgage, your gas, your lights … this is going to help me tremendously,” she said. “I try to help other people. But today I’m getting help.”

Few minded the long wait; some queued up as early as 2 a.m.

“This costs $225 to fill up,” said Danny Farr of Top Cat Hauling. “I’m trying to stay ahead of gas prices.” (Photo by Richard Cahan)

Danny Farr, of Top Cat Hauling, pulled up in his 2001 GMC truck with a 50-gallon tank. Thursday’s giveaway had a $50 per-vehicle limit. “Any little bit can help,” he said.

Tanya Herbert drove up in her silver Mercedes, which looked much newer than its 2010 model year. “It’s my home,” she said.

“It’s a great opportunity for everybody that somebody is trying to give back during the crisis,” said Tanya Herbert of Evanston, who took advantage of the gas giveaway. (Photo by Richard Cahan)

There were few Priuses and of course no Teslas in the line, which extended northwest up Green Bay Road to Simpson Street, then 12 blocks west to McCormick Boulevard and several blocks south to Golf Road.

There were a couple of accounts of line jumpers but nothing official and one report of a fender bender. Most people listened to music on their cellphones or the radio or read as they waited through the early morning. “I enjoyed the quiet,” said Achilles Kapsalis, a retired banquet server from Skokie.

Achilles Kapsalis, from Skokie, watches as volunteer Simone Brooks pumps free gas Thursday morning. “God bless you,” he said as he drove off. (Photo by Richard Cahan)

Mohammed Jaber, manager of the Mobil, said the station normally sells about 2,500 to 3,000 gallons a day, so dispensing 4,000 gallons in the first few hours meant it was likely going to be its most profitable day ever.

Sahal Vahora (foreground) and Muqbar Khan work the machines controling gas sales on Thursday at Mobil Gas on Green Bay Road. (Photo by Richard Cahan)

Jaber said he had an extra shipment of gas delivered overnight and added that he reduced the price about 30 cents a gallon to help community members.

He also donated gas to a couple of drivers turned away at 10:30 a.m. when the giveaway ended.

About 50 people were turned away, he said. “It wasn’t that bad.” Then he put up a sign saying no more free gas.

(The City of Evanston has shared these aerial photos of traffic related to the gas giveaway.)

Richard Cahan

Richard Cahan takes photos for the Evanston RoundTable. He also is publisher of CityFiles Press, a small but mighty media company that believes in the power of words and pictures. You can reach him at...

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  1. NOT knocking people who went to this to get gas but I have to question how much gas they burned waiting in line for 1-2 hours. Perhaps a better system would be to give out gas gift cards so people could fill up when they needed to and it could then be spaced out so that people were not sitting in line all morning and the EPD would not have had to hang out and manage traffic?