Free grocery gift cards attract hundreds - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Free grocery gift cards attract hundreds

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Hundreds line up for free gift cards  (WCIV/Evan Kelly) Hundreds line up for free gift cards (WCIV/Evan Kelly)

By Stefanie Bainum
sbainum@abcnews4.com

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Star Gospel Mission on Meeting Street gave out hundreds of free grocery gift cards on Monday. The 50 dollar Piggly Wiggly cards have been given to people in need every year for more than 10 years.

The gift card giveaway was on a first come, first serve basis for the first 600 people in line and began at 7:30 Monday morning.

In past years, more than a thousand people waited in line for the cards and this year looks no different.

"I've got my this morning's breakfast here that will take me through to about midnight," says Donald Heyward, who waited outside Star Gospel Mission since 11 AM Sunday morning.

For Heyward, it's an annual tradition."I pulled an 18 hour shift last year, this year will be about 22 hours," Heyward said.

Heyward said he's been homeless on and off for 30 years, and all those hours of waiting are worth it for 50 dollars of free groceries, as every dollar makes a difference.

"I live on a limited income and 50 dollars extra keeps me from going into my pocket for other things," said Heyward. "Fifty dollars. I worked a lot of hard days for 50 dollars so just to sit here for 18, 23 hours is not that bad."

Only 600 gift cards were handed out to those waiting in line this year-- a change from last year when 1,000 gift cards were passed out. Instead, 400 of the cards this year will now be going to a handful of churches.

Another change-- the minimum age to receive a gift card went from 18 to 25 years old.  But even with the new rules, the gift cards look to provide food and help for hundreds of people in need of a boost.

"It's really important, it really helps a lot of the homeless people. It really does, it gives them hope and it gives them something to eat on the next day," said Carl Livingston, who said he's homeless and waited in line for a free gift card since Sunday afternoon.

The Piggly Wiggly grocery gift cards can only be used for food and cannot go towards alcohol and tobacco products or the lottery.

The cards are funded by The Post and Courier's Good Cheer Fund.

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