Sometimes, even 20 bucks can seem like a miracle.
On Thursday morning, hundreds of cars backed up in St. Elmo as sheriff's officers directed traffic and men and women in bright red T-shirts pointed people to open gas pumps at the Kangaroo Express on Tennessee Avenue. People waited for hours to take advantage of a promotion that handed out $20 worth of gas to 200 lucky people.
It was a publicity stunt; a way for local banks and credit unions to get noticed and contrast themselves with big, national banks. But those who filled up -- or at least partially filled up -- said the giveaway was more than just some novelty. It was a much-needed break.
"It's a blessing," said Cyria Smith.
She had found a broken taillight on her car earlier in the morning. Her fuel gauge said "E" and she didn't have a buck to spare. So she borrowed $7 from a friend, hoping it would stretch to cover some red tape to repair the broken light and a few dollars of fuel so she could pick up the kids from school.
Then she heard about the promotion. While waiting in line, she told someone else about the free gas. That person, a stranger, just happened to have a roll of red tape. They helped each other out.
"God works on time," Smith said. "It was so empty."
Alicia Gladden didn't believe the news when she saw it on Facebook. But as workers busily pumped free gas into her tank, she couldn't hide her excitement.
"I've got a 4-month old baby," she said. "I can go buy some diapers with that $20."
All morning it was stories like that. Stories of how the gas meant more than just the 20 bucks. It meant getting by for a little longer, driving on a little further.
"A lot of people said it's just been a miracle, a blessing from God," said Stephen Rucker, vice president of Capital Bank, which put on the event with Kasasa, a company that works with community banks and credit unions. "All kinds of things."
Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249.