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Where in Chicago can you get free gas and why?

Chicago-area businessman and repeat political hopeful, Willie Wilson gave away $1 million in free gas to local motorist in second giveaway in as many weeks.

Chicago-area businessman and past political hopeful, Willie Wilson gave away $1 million in free gas to local motorist in second giveaway in as many weeks.

The price of gasoline has been easing slightly but is still over fifty percent more than it was a year ago. Motorists in the Chicago area are paying above the national average reaching a high of nearly $4.85 according to AAA last week.

Chicago millionaire businessman, philanthropist and constant political contender, Willie Wilson, decided he could “alleviate some of the pain that Chicagoans are experiencing” at the pump through a gas giveaway on 17 March.

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At times a messy first free gas giveaway

Wilson got the idea to help those feeling the pain at the pump when he himself got sticker shock filling up his own car. “If I take notice of high prices,” he told the Chicago Tribune “What about people not in the income bracket I’m in?”

The first free gas giveaway to Chicagoans was on a first come, first serve basis at 10 area gas stations until the $200,000 he pledged to spend was exhausted. He posted the event and the participating stations on his Facebook page citing “the highest fuel prices in 14 years.” Furthermore, the stations lowered their prices in order to service more customers for the giveaway.

What ensued was a Black-Friday-like scene at some gas stations as crowds of motorist tried to take advantage of his generosity. He had planned ahead somewhat to help ease what was sure to draw scores of people by hiring 100 helpers to pass out $50 gas cards and work the pumps, paying them $15 an hour for their time.

The crush of local residents caused traffic jams in parts of Chicago with some setting out hours before the 7am start. Many ended up sitting in lines of cars that snaked around city blocks, getting to the front only when it was too late.

Third free gas giveaway could happen if gas prices stay high

The droves of people that showed up convinced Wilson to do a second giveaway but even bigger, pledging $1 million this time around. The city was more prepared as well, warning those who started to form a line before 7am would be told to move on.

The giveaway was extended to 48 gas stations around the Chicago area and each station could only take the first 400 drivers. As well drivers were given a sticker to put on their car indicating their place in the line.

Although some did begin to line up before 7am, and despite a few heated words at some gas stations when some broke the rules, things went slightly more smoothly the second time around. Wilson said he may consider doing another giveaway in the coming months if gas prices stay high.

Building up momentum for a mayoral run?

The motive behind the giveaways Wilson has stated was to help ease people's financial burden but critics think it may be a ploy to build a following for another mayoral run. He has run for the office, among other political positions, in 2015 and 2019. In those elections he never garnered more than 11 percent of the vote and didn’t make it into the runoff either time.

At one of the giveaway stations he said that he’s thinking about another mayoral run. “A lot of people asked me to run for mayor of the city of Chicago again,” Wilson said. “If I do run, I’ll make my decision in the next two weeks.”


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