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Des Moines community leader gives away almost $15,000 worth of gas for his birthday

Pastor Rob Johnson started the giveaway tradition in 2022.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Some people like to say that "nothing in life is free." Well, nobody told that to Pastor Rob Johnson.

"I know people who ride around and just put $5 in their tank, $10 in their tank, $20 in their tank at a time, because that's all they got. And so now, you don't have to worry about any of that," Johnson said.

It might sound too good to be true, but Johnson and a team of volunteers spent Jan. 21 — Johnson's birthday — giving out free gas to drivers at the Kum & Go on Keosauqua Way in Des Moines, no questions asked.

It's the second year of the tradition, with the latest giveaway nearly tripling the amount of gas donated, going from $5,000 in 2022 to nearly $15,000 in 2023. Johnson first got the idea from a chance encounter during the holidays.

"A couple of days out from Christmas, there was a lady at a gas station. Her card declined, and when her card declined, I was blessed with resources, so I went and just paid for the gas," Johnson said.

Being stuck in traffic might not seem like an ideal way to spend your Saturday morning. At its busiest, the line to get a free fill-up stretched around the entire block, but those who spoke to Local 5 at the pump said that the wait was more than worth it.

"I saw just a lot of cars in line and thought it was worth checking out. (...) Free gas! That was pretty awesome, a nice little bonus," said Blake Butters, who fueled up his car during the giveaway.  

Hundreds of drivers got their tanks filled up at the giveaway. Johnson says the event was his way of giving back to a community that's given him so much.

"This is what love looks like. When we love in our community, this is what it looks like. And we love our people. This love is an action, and that's what we're doing," Johnson said.

The 2023 giveaway may be over, but Pastor Johnson told Local 5 that he's planning to continue raising money to keep the tradition alive for the foreseeable future.

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