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Hundreds Line Up In Rain Across Chicago For Willie Wilson’s Grocery Giveaway: ‘It’s A Lot Of Help, Believe Me’

Chicagoans braved the rain to get grocery coupons Wednesday. The savings are needed to help families hit hard by rising food prices, residents said.

Despite the rain, people lined up around the block at 1711 W. Cermak Road to get a grocery coupon.
Madison Savedra/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — People lined up in pouring rain Wednesday morning, hoping to nab a $25 grocery coupon during the latest round of Willie Wilson giveaways.

Wilson, the millionaire mayoral candidate, is giving away $200,000 worth of grocery coupons at 29 stores in the city Wednesday. Hundreds of people lined up early at some of the grocery stores.

Laura Gutierrez, of Logan Square, lined up early outside the Cermak Fresh Market at 4000 W. Diversey Ave., standing in the rain to get her grocery coupon. The $25 coupon will make a big difference for her family, as rising gas and food prices have hurt, she said.

“I can cook maybe three or four days of the whole week” with the coupon, Gutierrez said. “It’s a lot of help, believe me. It’s great.”

Another person in the line, who asked that she not be identified, said the coupon will be helpful to pay for groceries.

“Since the pandemic, things have gotten extremely worse and prices have went extremely high,” the woman said. “So, this is just a little way, it’s a little way of helping.”

About 150 people had lined up by 8:50 a.m. at the Cermak Fresh Fresh Markets at 1711 W. Cermak Road, chatting and drinking coffee. Store employees handed out cards for the giveaway, with people filing into the store.

Maritza Limón, a mother of two, said she was waiting in line for a little over an hour. She said even though it’s only $25, the discount will make an impact on her monthly finances.

“I was really excited when I read about it,” she said. “I’m surprised there aren’t even more people here.”

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
Willie Wilson at one of his grocery giveaways Wednesday.

Tameca Fields was one of the first 20 people in line at the Pilsen store, and she said she was waiting for more than two hours. Fields, who said she was experiencing homelessness, said having a coupon for groceries meant a lot to her, especially with rising food prices.

Tiffany Lenzy, who also said she’s experiencing homelessness and was waiting in line with Fields, said the coupon was well worth the several hours in line.

“I hope [Willie Wilson] does another one of these,” she said. “It helps.”

A man who asked that he only be identified as Miguel said he hopped in line a little after 9 a.m., hopeful he would still be able to receive a coupon. Miguel, who was with his two children, said he would use the coupon to splurge on things they’re always asking for. He usually has to prioritize the everyday basics, he said.

“They want the cereals, the chips and cookies, frozen pizzas, and I hate telling them no,” he said. “This just gives us some extra money room.”

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
People lined up in the rain Wednesday morning to get a food coupon through a Willie Wilson giveaway at 3448 E. 118th St.

At the Pete’s on 118th Street and Avenue O, more than 150 shoppers formed a line stretching through nearly 10 stores in the strip mall before the giveaway started at 9 a.m.

Zaria Smith traveled about 20 minutes with her grandmother, Marie, to the Hegewisch store. Wednesday’s recent grocery and gas giveaways are why Wilson “should be the mayor of Chicago,” Zaria Smith said.

Rising food prices “hurt the people who are living pay-to-paycheck — it hurts a lot of people,” Zaria Smith said. “But it’s it’s nice that he’s bring so considerate and open to help the community in that way.”

Marie Smith said she’s not concerned with the ethics of a mayoral candidate giving away grocery coupons, since Wilson also held gas giveaways shortly before announcing his candidacy.

Wilson’s gas giveaways earlier this year attracted enormous lines, with some criticizing the events as political stunts that snarl traffic while others have said they’re grateful for the help as gas prices remain high and inflation has made even staple foods more expensive.

Wilson defended himself Wednesday, saying his philanthropy is separate from his politics.

“I’m going to continue to be the same as you see me today, that I’ve been all my life,” Wilson said during a news conference at one of the stores. “Whether that’s political or non-political. Because the fact of it is that people come first, from a humanitarian situation.”

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
People line up in the rain at a Cermak Fresh Market, 4000 W. Diversey Ave., to get a $25 grocery coupon.

Wilson declined to say what policies he would enact to help people struggling to make ends meet if he’s elected mayor.

“Forget about the policy here; think about the people,” Wilson said. “I don’t want to get into the politics and you guys are going to go back and say that I’m buying votes. I don’t want to get into that, because that ain’t what I’m here for.”

Michael Bousis, the owner of the Cermak stores, said his team is grateful to Wilson for helping Chicagoans.

“People are really facing a hard time right now, with the price of food, price of gas, there’s a strain on what’s happening, and we hope that there’s a solution for people,” Bousis said. “And Dr. Wilson is doing a great thing for everybody to make things better and kick off the Memorial Day weekend.”

Wilson will also fund discounted gas at 15 stations in the city and suburbs Thursday.

Here are the locations of Pete’s Fresh Markets:

  • 5724 S. Kedzie Ave., Gage Park
  • 4700 S. Kedzie Ave., Brighton Park
  • 4343 S. Pulaski Rd., Archer Heights
  • 5838 S. Pulaski Rd., West Elsdon
  • 3448 E. 118th St., Hegewisch
  • 2526 W. Cermak Rd., Little Village
  • 1968 Sibley Blvd., Calumet City
  • 3720 W. 95th St., Evergreen Park
  • 17w675 W. Roosevelt Rd., Oakbrook Terrace
  • 2333 W. Madison St., Near West Side
  • 10280 S. Harlem Ave., Bridgeview
  • 259 Lake St., Oak Park
  • 840 Plainfield Rd., Willowbrook
  • 151 Rice Lake Square, Wheaton
  • 880 Roosevelt Rd., Glen Ellyn
  • 1100 State St., Lemont
  • 4233 Lincoln Highway, Matteson

Here are the locations of Cermak Fresh Markets:

  • 4605 W. Cermak Rd., Cicero
  • 3435 S. Archer Ave., McKinley Park
  • 4234 N. Kedzie Ave., Irving Park
  • 1711 W. Cermak Rd., Pilsen
  • 52200 S. Pulaski Rd., Archer Heights
  • 3311 W. 26th St., Little Village
  • 1250 N. Lake St., Aurora
  • 7220 S. Cicero Ave., Bedford Park
  • 3033 S. Halsted St., Bridgeport
  • 6623 Damen Ave., Rogers Park
  • 4000 W. Diversey Ave., Avondale
  • 5129 W. Belmont Ave., Belmont Craigin

Here are the locations of gas stations:

  • Super Save at 48 E. Garfield Blvd., Washington Park
  • Citgo at 1345 N. Pulaski Rd., Humboldt Park
  • Super Save at 11100 S. State St., Roseland
  • Mobil at 2800 S. Kedzie Ave., Little Village
  • Marathon at 340 S. Sacramento Blvd., East Garfield Park
  • BP at 6308 N. Central Ave., Forest Glen
  • Mobil at 3201 N. Harlem Ave., Dunning
  • BP at 3101 S. King Dr., Douglas
  • BP at 5949 W. Higgins Rd., Jefferson Park
  • Gulf at 9901 S. Halsted St., Washington Heights
  • Mobil at 1950 Green Bay Road in Evanston
  • Super Save at 101 W. Madison St. in Maywood
  • Phillips at 9340 Irving Park Road in Schiller Park
  • Shell at 6129 W. North Ave. in Oak Park
  • Shell at 5201 W. Cermak Road in Cicero

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