By SEAN BARRON
Abdel Yusef hadn’t decided whether to take his mother, Amal Yusef, to Cleveland or Pittsburgh to celebrate Mother’s Day today, but whichever destination he chose, he will have spent considerably less money to get there.
“This free gas will help, you know?” the Youngstown State University junior and pre-med major said with glee as he waited in line to see his Honda Pilot sport utility vehicle’s gasoline indicator surge from a quarter of a tank to full.
Yusef was among those who came to the BP gas station, 2703 Belmont Ave., to receive up to 10 free gallons of gasoline Saturday morning, courtesy of an outreach effort by Victory Christian Center’s Liberty Campus.
The church was giving away that amount of fuel to the first 100 vehicles to arrive at the station as a way of celebrating 10 years of ministry, explained the Rev. Lock P. Beachum Jr., head pastor. The charitable event in which volunteers pumped the gasoline also was part of the church’s Operation Impact outreach ministry, he said.
Good timing and being in the right place at the right time ensured that instead of paying $2.89 per gallon for regular unleaded fuel, Conja Pearce of Girard paid $0.00.
“I was on my way to my grandmother’s house and as I was passing by, something told me to pull over,” Pearce said as she was getting her 2017 Kia Soul vehicle filled. “This never happened to me before.”
Pearce, whose gas tank was slightly less than half full, said she’s visited Victory Christian Center and is grateful for its community-outreach projects.
The gasoline giveaway also was an extension of the church’s yearlong effort to reach out to those in need and the community as a whole, noted Debra Hasely, who, along with her husband, Bob, oversaw the effort.
The event was in lockstep with projects “outside of the four walls” of the church, she said. Two such undertakings last week were donating cupcakes as part of Liberty High School’s Teacher Appreciation Week and supplying breakfast food for Kirkmere Elementary School’s Muffins for Mom event, Debra said.
In addition, the church gives away backpacks throughout the school year to children in need at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. They contain enough food for the weekend, she noted.
“This is who we are,” Debra added. “It’s all about blessing people.”
Saturday’s effort was valuable also because it came at a time when gasoline prices have been steadily climbing, said Naser Karakra, a manager with the BP station. Many area residents are struggling financially, have to work two jobs to make ends meet or are making minimum wage, so it’s difficult for them to afford to fill their gas tanks, he pointed out.
Karakra added he’s also happy to assist Victory Christian Center’s outreach to others.
It didn’t take long for others to take advantage of the outreach effort. Shortly after the giveaway got underway, the BP station’s 10 pumps were occupied, and a line of cars about a quarter-mile long snaked along Gypsy Lane.
The Rev. Mr. Beachum, a 1989 Ursuline High School graduate who received a football scholarship to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, recalled having had aspirations of playing in the NFL. Even though those plans failed to pan out, God called him to be a pastor, and a top priority became reaching out to the community, Mr. Beachum explained.
“The lord opened up another chapter, and that chapter is the ministry. We want to share the love of God,” Mr. Beachum said, adding that he and his wife, Gloria, spearheaded a similar gasoline giveaway three years ago, mainly for that reason.
Liberty Police Department assisted with traffic control.