Habitat for Humanity T-Bird winner announced

VERO BEACH — Crickett Buker-Stelmack’s cell phone rang a little past 9 Saturday night, Nov. 7. She glanced at the display, didn’t recognize the number and didn’t answer. It was the weekend. No urgency. She decided to check her messages later.

Had she listened to those late night messages, she would have heard the voice of County Commission Chairman Wesley Davis, calling from a large tent at Riverside Park, hundreds of people standing around in hushed silence to hear him tell her she had just won a 1957 Thunderbird convertible in a drawing at Indian River Habitat for Humanity’s annual Cracker HoeDown.

It wasn’t until the following Monday that Crickett at last got the news. “I was at work and I went to call my husband and noticed the voice mail messages. That’s when I found out.” Crickett Buker-Stelmack began her 36-year career as a teacher in Indian River County at Gifford Middle School in 1973, moving to Osceola Elementary, then to Citrus Elementary, then to Oslo Middle, where she currently teaches 6th and 8th grade science.

Several months ago, Crickett was in Orlando attending a business conference. Exiting the elevator in her hotel, she noticed a crumpled bill on the floor. Without her glasses, she couldn’t discern the denomination and stuffed it into her pocket. When she unrolled it later, glasses on, hoping for a ten or even a twenty, she was stunned to see it was a $100 she held in her hand.

After talking with her husband, Crickett, possessing a strong sense of integrity, decided that her “found money” should go to a charity. Before choosing one, however, Crickett dropped by the Habitat for Humanity Home Center (where she is a frequent shopper).

“My total purchase was about $10, she said. “I thought to myself, ‘Well, this is a good charity. So I gave the cashier the $100 bill and told him to keep the change.” The cashier, John Sillesky, who is also the store’s Assistant Manager, did a bit of a double take and asked, “Are you sure?” Crickett assured him she was.

Sitting at that time on the showroom floor was the beautiful 1957 Thunderbird which was to be the prize in a drawing at Habitat’s Cracker Hoedown Nov. 7. A few $100 (donation) tickets remained, so John suggested that Crickett consider adding another $10 to her change and purchase one.

“I had never bought anything like that before,” she said. “But it was beautiful. That was the car we all drooled over back in high school and college.”

She considered for a while. The money would still be helping a charity. She decided to go for it. Adding a ten to her change, she dropped the ticket into her purse.

Ironically, the lease on her car expired in September and she had to get new a new ride. “I said to my husband, ‘It’s too bad the lease isn’t up in November, when I win that T-Bird,’ and we both laughed about it.”

She didn’t give the ticket another thought – until she listened to the message from Habitat on Monday morning.

On Tuesday, Nov. 11, she found herself in front of the Home Center, sitting in the cherry red leather driver’s seat of her cream colored ’57 T-Bird convertible, smiling broadly for the camera. She had just received the keys from Habitat’s CEO Andy Bowler.

“In my wildest dreams, with two kids at home, both in college, did I ever imagine. . . . .” she shook her head. Son Nicholas is a sophomore at IRSC studying biomedical science; and daughter Gina will graduate from FAU in December with a BS in education, following in her mother’s footsteps. Nicholas is lobbying hard for mom to keep the T-Bird, but Crickett has yet to make a decision.

She knows one thing for certain, though: she tried her best to do the right thing with her unexpected windfall, followed her heart – and received a blessing.

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