Charleston residents line up outside Star Gospel Mission for $50 gift card

Residents wait outside the Star Gospel Mission on Meeting Street Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 in hopes of getting a $50 gift card. By Christina Elmore/staff Buy this photo

Hundreds of people lined up at the Star Gospel Mission in frosty weather Monday morning in hopes of getting a $50 Piggly Wiggly gift card.

The mission, at 474 Meeting St., gave away 700 gift cards and plans to distribute an additional 300 to local churches to assist homebound, elderly and handicapped people, Executive Director William K. Christian said.

Deborah Barnett got in line at 10 p.m. Sunday to make sure she got a card when the doors opened at 7:30 a.m.

This made the third year in a row she’s participated in the card giveaway. Snuggled beneath a blanket and wearing a hat, gloves and thick coat, Barnett said she was grateful that this year’s cold was easier to endure than last year’s.

Barnett recently had back surgery, and she wasn’t sure she’d make it out this year.

“I decided I’d come out and give it a try,” Barnett said with her walker in hand. “If it’s meant for me I’ll get a card and it will be a big help to me. But if I don’t, then I won’t worry too much about it.”

Not far away stood Karen Simmons, the first person in line.

Simmons waited with six family members. She said the group got in line late Saturday.

“We come every year, so I knew the line has been crowded,” Simmons said, adding that the wait is worth the extra help the mission provides.

In order to receive a card residents had to provide a photo ID, Social Security card and be at least 30 years old.

A 25-year-old man stood in line for hours only to be turned away. The age limit was instituted in recent years in part to help shorten the line.

Christian said the mission decided on the age restriction in conjunction with the Charleston Police Department. He stood by the decision despite it preventing young mothers and others from receiving the extra help.

“In the past we’ve had some of the younger people abuse the system. They would go out and possibly sell the card for money or for whatever other purposes they may desire,” Christian said.

The mission is considering raising the age requirement yet again to 35.

“The goal is to make sure that the senior citizens, the elderly people, the neediest people in the communities actually benefit and are blessed from these cards,” Christian said.

The last card was given at about 8:30 a.m. The man behind that person had only been waiting since about 8 a.m.

The Post and Courier’s Good Cheer Fund pays for the gift cards. They cannot be used to purchase alcohol or tobacco products or lottery tickets.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.

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