Photo by Johnny Jackson
McDonough resident Heather Waits (left) thanks Jerome Adkins (right), whose family volunteered to pay $25 towards her gas Friday at the Texaco Food Mart on Jodeco Road in McDonough. The man’s son, Jonathan Adkins (center), helped pump gas for Waits.
The dark, cool sky slowly gave way to light, as residents began to pour out of their homes and onto the streets en route to their jobs Friday morning.
Some of them, like William Retzloff, stopped by the neighborhood gas station, where they were greeted by a family offering to pay for their gas. The McDonough man stood in disbelief as the family’s patriarch, Jerome Adkins, pumped the petrol into his small sedan.
“It’s just never happened to me before,” said Retzloff. “I mean, thank you. This is pretty amazing.”
Retzloff was on his way to work, when he came upon the act of charity. It overwhelmed him so, that he asked whether he could contribute something.
“Pay it forward,” was the Adkins Family’s message.
Jerome Adkins and his wife, LaChelle Adkins, said they hosted what the “G.A.S. (Giving And Sharing)” giveaway in order to be catalysts for kindness within the community.
The giveaway began at 6 o’clock Friday morning at the Texaco Food Mart on Jodeco Road, in McDonough. It offered free gas to the convenience store’s first 20 patrons, up to $25 per vehicle.
The Adkins Family paid for $500 worth of gas, in order to help ease the pain at the pump for local residents who are paying nearly $4 per gallon on average for fuel, according to Nick Patel, manager at Texaco Food Mart. He noted the family is a regular customer of the convenience store, and he was glad to facilitate their vision to promote paying it forward.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this,” said Heather Waits, of McDonough. “I think it’s very great.”
Waits said she identified with the family’s message of paying it forward in the community.
“In the past, what I’d do is if I’m in the drive thru at Chick-fil-A, I would pay for the person behind me,” she said. “It’s something that happened to me years ago, and now I just return the favor and pay it forward.”
Waits acknowledged she was stunned by Friday’s kind act, as many were who benefited from the giveaway.
McDonough resident Valarie Braithwait stopped by the convenience store just before the effort ended at 7 a.m., on her way to take her son to school. She said her son, at first, protested because of the activity there. Both were unaware of the free gas she was about to receive.
“He said something must have happened, but I didn’t see any police, so I came on in,” said Braithwait.
“It’s a very pleasant surprise on a Friday morning,” added Cyndee Clark, of McDonough, on her way to work. “People helping people is what it’s all about.”
The premise of the giveaway was to get community members to react to kindness and charity towards them, with kindness and charity for others, according to Jerome Adkins.
The Adkins Family also used the giveaway as an opportunity promote the Atlanta-based organization, Hope Atlanta. The non-profit provides housing, outreach, prevention, and emergency services to individuals and families who are low-income or homeless.
“It is easy to give out of abundance, but true character comes from giving when things are difficult,” said Jerome Adkins. “We challenge everyone to give back in some way. It may not be gas, but maybe a meal for a neighbor. It is not what you give, but that you give in your own way.”
Jerome Adkins and his family moved to McDonough from Columbus, in 2010. The father is a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, and he works as a manager of a Walmart Supercenter in Rockdale County. He also recently established a non-denominational church called the World Fellowship of Jesus Christ, which meets at the Red Roof Inn, in Lithonia.
His wife of 19 years, LaChelle, is a stay-at-home mother. She cares for the 11 youngsters still living at home. They have a total of 14 children, between the ages of 4 months and 22 years.
The mother uses a 15-passenger van to busily transport her children daily to four different schools, and whatever other activities or jobs to which they have committed. Her 17-year-old son, Jonathan Adkins, is junior at Eagle’s Landing High School, in McDonough. He works at Chick-fil-A at Truett’s Grill as part of the Henry County Schools’ Work-Based Learning Program. He was named the program’s February 2012 Student of The Month.
The teen took a lead role, alongside his father, helping to pump gas.
“I think it’s pretty exciting to help people, especially like this,” said Jonathan Adkins. “Twenty-five dollars of gas can really mean something to somebody.”
It did mean something for a grateful Carolyn Douglas, who was running late for work Friday morning.
“I think this is an outstanding thing for the community,” said Douglas, of McDonough. “It’s certainly not something I’ve seen in a while. There are hundreds of thousands of us in the same boat, and if we band together, we might necessarily make it. And this is where it starts.”