EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Alexus Freeman and Chelsea Brumaire were sitting in their parked car with the heat on at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday, waiting for their chance to nab free meals for a year from the township’s new Chick-fil-A.
The best friends, both of Egg Harbor Township, were the third car to pull into the Walmart parking lot of the Oak Tree Plaza across from the new restaurant on the Black Horse Pike at Fire Road.
There was nothing to do but wait for the First 100 Road Trip to begin.
“I was actually scared that there would be more people here,” said Brumaire, a senior at the township’s high school who skipped classes to participate.”I’m so excited for the new spot to open and for the event going on later today.”
They’re die-hard fans of the fast food chain. Brumaire said she’s known about the event since April, when she saw it advertised on the franchise’s Facebook page but kept it a secret so she wouldn’t add to the competition.
“I would always choose Chick-fil-A over any other fast food,” she said.
While it was their first time participating in the event, several people who showed up right before the 6 a.m. start time were seasoned First 100 professionals.
For Robin Shelburne, 46, of Washington Township, it was here sixth time, but the day’s event was only the fourth time making it inside the store as one of the First 100.
She brought her coworker, Shelly Phillips, 55, with for her first time. However, the two women weren’t there to nab the free meals for themselves. They plan on donating their prizes to a silent auction to benefit Young Life of Gloucester County, a nondenominational youth ministry.
“They’re super-generous to the community,” Shelburne said of the chain. “Just a great company.”
A group of three siblings from Hammonton who described themselves as “loyal patrons” of the franchise came out to the event together.
Older brother Tim Krell, 29, was at the chain’s opening in Voorhees, but for the twins, Matt and Renee, 23, Wednesday was their first time participating.
“We just like their food,” Renee said. “I’m planning on treating lots of friends to Chick-fil-A.”
Last year, the group dressed up as the restaurant’s signature bovine for Cow Appreciation Day and traveled from location to location collecting free sandwiches, she said.
As a first-time participant, Jeaninne McGuire, 52, of Somers Point, was excited to get her free meals but was more impressed with the community-service aspect of the road trip.
Unlike the franchise’s traditional campout events, participants got on a chartered bus at 9 a.m. and traveled to different spots in the area completing community service projects and competitions.
For six hours, they “engaged in activities that will provide opportunities to get up and move as well as inspire civic pride and gratitude,” according to a news release.
“It’s exciting to come out this early and see what they’re going to do for the community,” McGuire said. “Every new business should bring something to this community.”