‘Our lucky week’; Hy-Vee, brothers surprise couple with $1,000 gift card
Published 10:38 am Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Mary and Mel Flicek were geared up to collect as much food as they could in about four minutes at Hy-Vee Monday. They’d practiced Sunday night and even had a list of items they were going to get.
Then they turned into aisle 2 of Hy-Vee to find store manager Todd Hepler and his staff waiting with a sign.
“Congratulations, you won $1,000,” Hepler and his staff told the Fliceks.
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The Fliceks got an early Thanksgiving surprise Monday: a $1,000 gift card to Hy-Vee. After winning the Czech it Out Dinner grand prize, Mel and Mary Flicek thought they had only about four minutes to collect as much can food as possible for up to $1,000.
But Hy-Vee had other plans. Knowing the Flicek’s age and that they’d be in motorized carts, Hepler thought the time limit would be putting them at a disadvantage.
“Our whole goal was to give away a thousand dollars, so why not just give it to them,” Hepler said, knowing they probably wouldn’t get to a thousand dollars on their own.
“It is Thanksgiving, so it’s the right time to do it,” he added.
The gift card came as a welcome surprise to the Fliceks, who’d won the shopping spree at the annual Czech It Out Dinner. The Ruzek brothers — Dan, Michael and Dave — host the dinner each year in honor of their father and mother, Carl and Stella Ruzek. Carl was a disabled after being wounded in World War II, and their mother was his caregiver. One of the main goals of the dinner is to help veterans and local service groups, Dan noted.
That’s why the Ruzeks were pleased to see the money go to the Fliceks.
“It couldn’t happen to a nicer couple,” Dan said.
Mel served in the Korean Wars in the National Guard and the U.S. Army. He’s been an active veteran in Austin. He’s been commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Club and is still in the VFW color guard and was in charge of the color guard for about a decade.
After winning the timed shopping spree, Mary joked to VFW Commander Scott Wiechmann that she couldn’t see herself going down the aisle with a motorized cart, but Wiechmann agreed to run the cart for them.
The Fliceks were determined to take advantage of the deal of up to $1,000 in four minutes. They even practiced Sunday night for an hour and a half with Wiechmann, who was in on the surprise and kept the secret. Mary even had a list of items to pick out, which included Cure 81 hams for Thanksgiving.
“I’m really glad I don’t have to be running,” Mary said after getting the full $1,000.
But at first when they rounded to corner to see Hepler and his Hy-Vee staff, the Fliceks didn’t immediately know they’d gotten the full $1,000 without it being timed.
“I just thought that they were going to all lead it off,” Mary said. “I didn’t catch on until he said we got the full thousand.”
But Hepler told the couple they can spend their $1,000 whenever they want at the grocery story or at the gas station for up 12 months.
“You get the full thousand dollars and you don’t have to hurry,” Hepler said.
“Aw, thank you,” Mary replied.
The Fliceks used a bit of their winnings on Monday, picking up a Cure 81 ham for Thanksgiving, but they said they’d likely go home to make a list of future items they’d get. They had planned to get extra food for thanksgiving to have leftovers.
“Now I don’t have to use the neighbor’s freezer,” Mary joked.
Hepler said he’s been involved with many charitable things during his time with Hy-Vee, but he said Monday with the Fliceks stood out because it landed right before Thanksgiving at the time of giving.
“I wanted to make sure they got the full $1000,” he said.
To Hepler, his favorite part was the look on their faces when they rounded the corner when his crew congratulated them.
“The look on their faces is something I’ll never forget,” he said.
Mary also noted the surprise came at a good time: Mel’s birthday is Tuesday, Mary’s birthday is next week, and their wedding anniversary is Saturday.
“This is our lucky week,” Mary said.
Hy-Vee taking Feed A Family donations
The seventh Feed A Family program is just around the corner, which is a program to give $50 food baskets to needy families. Hy-Vee is seeking donations right now. People can donate to the cause now by calling in a donation, rounding up their groceries at the checkout line or by giving $10 donation at the checkout, the gas station, the wine and spirit store or Caribou.
The program has served between 600 to 800 families a year in the past, and Hy-Vee is looking to raise $10,000 to $14,000.
Dinners are typically given out shortly before Christmas.
The idea for Feed A Family sparked at KAUS Radio, and Hy-Vee, the Salvation Army, and several donors and sponsors soon came on board.
Last year the meals included: A Hormel Cure 81 ham, Sara Lee (Bimbo Bakeries) brown and serve rolls, Mrs. Gerry’s Mashed potatoes, Mrs. Gerry’s cranberry relish, two cans of vegetables, homestyle Sara Lee pie, a Hy-Vee salad, two packages Kraft cheese and a pound of butter from Mower County Dairy Association. The four-person meal was valued at $56 to $57.