A volunteer pumps someone’s gas at a gas station on North Avenue in Oak Park, one of roughly four dozen selected by businessman Willie Wilson to participate in a gas giveaway on March 24. | Michael Romain/Editor

Willie Tucker, a Broadview resident, said the nearly $5 a gallon gas prices in the Chicago area have caused him to curtail his goodwill.

“I do things for the church, so the prices have affected me,” Tucker said Thursday morning while pumping his tank with $50 worth of gas — a gift from Chicago businessman Willie Wilson — at a BP station at 11201 W. Cermak Rd. in Westchester.

The March 24 gas giveaway was Wilson’s second in as many weeks. The businessman gave away $1 million worth of gas at roughly four dozen fueling stations in the city and suburbs, including six stations in Bellwood, Broadview, Maywood, Melrose Park, Stone Park and Westchester.

“I used to pick people up and take them to different places — I’m not doing all of that anymore,” Tucker continued, before thanking Wilson effusively.

“Willie Wilson for president!” Tucker shouted.

Wilson, a serial candidate for political office, has run for president, the U.S. Senate and mayor of Chicago. Wilson is currently running again for the latter office after failed bids in 2015 and 2019.

Photo by Michael Romain

“I had an officer tell me, ‘You got a brand new Lincoln, what you doing in line? You crazy?’ Do I look crazy?” Tucker said, adding that he lined up for the free fill at around 5 a.m.

The gas giveaway was also a boon to the stations chosen to participate in Wilson’s giveaway.

“We have so many neighborhood people who have been struggling for money when the gas prices went up, so business was slow before this,” said Sino Cherian, the manager of the Westchester BP station.

Cherian said he got to work at around 4 a.m., in order to prepare the station for the lines of motorists looking to refuel. As he spoke, a queue of cars stretched about a mile west from Cermak — a sight that was replicated at virtually every gas station that Wilson selected.

“Everyone is happy,” Cherian added. “We brought in workers who usually come in at night to help the day people.”

Everyone interviewed during the giveaway said the Thursday event was much more orderly than the giveaway that happened a week ago in Chicago, when motorists seeking some of the $200,000 worth of free gas Wilson was offering caused unwieldy bottlenecks at 10 stations in the city.

This time, teams of workers wearing bright vests worked alongside area police officers to create entry and exit points at each gas station. They also organized separate lanes for motorists seeking free gas, so that other car traffic would not be impeded.

“We worked it out,” said Joann, a team leader working the giveaway at a gas station at 6129 W. North Ave. in Oak Park, just west of the Austin-Oak Park border, where the line stretched for a mile west. She said 400 motorists got free gas.

“Everything went really smoothly,” she said. “Police were very cooperative. I got a great team.”


This story is part of an ongoing series of articles that Austin Weekly News publishes about issues, events, people, places and things that take place west of Austin Boulevard, but that nonetheless resonate to the east of it, as well.

CONTACT: michael@austinweeklynews.com