With a healthy dose of skepticism, Capricia Jones ventured out to see what "everybody in York" was talking about.
To her surprise, Jones discovered the rumors were true. Someone really was handing out free cellphones.
The 37-year-old mother grabbed a place in line and waited, determined to leave with a phone for her 16-year-old daughter, an honor-roll student who "deserves a phone."
"I'll stand in line for her," Jones said.
Jones was one of about a dozen women, many with children in tow, who'd stumbled upon York City's worst-kept secret Monday at the C-Town shopping plaza on North Duke Street.
Budget Mobile has been in town since July 27 giving out free phones through a federally subsidized program called Lifeline, said Melissa Goffe, a company intern who was approving applications and distributing phones Monday.
Goffe has set up a table in a hallway at the plaza adjacent to the Stadium Grille. For a few more weeks, Budget Mobile representatives will be handing out phones between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
So far, they've handed out 1,400 phones in York, Goffe said.
"We want to stay here as long as there's no more line," she said.
For 57-year-old Barbra Burns, the promise of a free cellphone meant she could stay in touch with family - especially when health problems trigger emergencies - without having to pay $50 a month.
"I pay a lot for my phone every month," Burns said. "It takes away from (other) bills."
The phones come with 250 minutes per month. After a year, users can re-certify their phone, Goffe said.
Eligibility: To qualify for a phone, a person must already be receiving assistance through government programs - such as food stamps or Medicaid - or have a household income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty level.
For a single person, annual income may not exceed $15,080. For a family of four, the income limit is $31,118.
According to the Federal Communications Commission's website, the Lifeline program began in 1985 as a way to extend phone service to low-income Americans.
Maria Otero waited in line Monday to get a phone for her 10-year-old daughter. Otero, 32, said she'd feel better knowing her daughter is walking to and from school with a phone.
"Kids nowadays need a phone to call 911," she said. "It'll be safer."
- Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.