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Gas giveaway in Chula Vista brings relief to hundreds

People lined up for hours in Chula Vista to get free gas this morning. The gas giveaway was organized by Shane Harris and People’s Association of Justice Advocates. KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado tells us some were running out of gas while waiting in line.

"Number one!" said Erin Smalley, while she sat in her car in a long line for free gas in Chula Vista. To be number one, Smalley left her home at four in the morning. By 7 a.m., the line for the gas giveaway was hours long.

People waited so long, car batteries died during the wait. Others were on the brink of running out of gas, and some simply gave up, fearing they would be late for work.

But most of the people waited it out.


"It’s a blessing, it’s a blessing, truly," said Barbara Bruce, adding that her gas light was on.

For the San Diego resident and hundreds more, it was a chance to get a little relief from the pain at the pump, where $6 per gallon is becoming the norm.

Bruce said she’s had to cut way back on essentials. "I’m paying like every other month [for] my gas and electric," she said. "I can pay that every other month. Food, of course, we cut way back. I go to the grocery store and I just get upset, very upset."

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Bruce's niece, Janaia Bruce, also came to the giveaway. "I’m forever grateful," she said. "I know my family is forever grateful, but it is a bit of a sacrifice out here, and the lines, and it’s unorganized, but we’ll get through it."


Janaia Bruce, added she already knows how she’ll spend the money she saved on this tank of gas, saying, "What that means for my family is now with SDG&E ... we can put it towards that bill."

"It should not be hard for our elected officials to have a heart and actually feel the pain that these folks feel," said Shane Harris, the president of the People’s Association of Justice Advocates (PAJA), who organized the event.

Local churches, nonprofits, elected officials and local leaders donated to make the event possible. In addition to gassing up about 300 cars, they also handed out food boxes from the San Diego Food Bank.

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"We need action now ... We’re taking action right here, right now. We’re putting gas in tanks," said Harris. "We can’t wait until July, [for] promises about rebates potentially are coming down the line and what they might look like by the time we get to July. People are going to be $1200, $1500 in the hole, so $400 dollars — what is that going to essentially do?"

Roosevelt Williams III, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, said he donated to the free gas event because the need in the community is critical. "We’re in a state of emergency, he said, "and you can actually just look and see the issue and the concern, and see the individuals are making life decisions at the pump. Are they going to pay for food or are they going to pay to finance gas? And that is a huge concern."