Instead, they honored him with a surprise luncheon for his many years of service to others and the community.
“I had no idea,” he said. “It knocked me off my feet. I started shedding tears of joy. I do things, but I don't look for a pat on the back.”
Men of Action President Randy Smith and seven other group members spoke about Gist's accomplishments and contributions. Smith spoke about Gist being a man of God, a family man and a man who is involved in a number of different causes.
“He is one who gives to the point of hurting and when he is hurting he gives some more,” he said. “He has donated monetary gifts, he has sponsored children on different trips, such as an Atlanta Braves game, a South Carolina State game, he's helped with back to school giveaways.”
Treasurer Marion Eison said Gist is a wonderful man.
“He's the guy we all look up to,” he said. “He is so special and we are glad to have him as a member of our group.”
Now 78, Gist worked for Milliken & Co. for over 37 years before opening a downtown fine clothing store, Oscar's. He has been on Main Street for 24 years.
He and his wife of 52 years, Dorothy, have four children, Oscar Jr., Darryl, Kimberly and Paulia. They have two grandchildren.
He is a member of the deacon board at McBeth Baptist Church and oversees the church's music department. He taught Sunday School for 40 years and now is an assistant Sunday School teacher. He also works with the church's food and clothing closet on Porter Street. Gist also is a Mason and a Shriner.
Gist said he was surprised when the Men of Action asked him to become a member.
“I said, ‘You don't want an old man like me,'” he said. “They showed me their goals and purposes and those were things I had been trying to do. They are quite a dedicated group of young men out to turn things around.”
Men of Action formed two years ago in an effort to help more young men graduate from high school and enter college and the work force.
Their motto is, “Building strong minds, hearts, and souls ... transforming boys to men ... building men of action.”