ROCHELLE — The Rochelle VFW Post 3878’s Queen of Hearts contest recently saw an unprecedented full 54-week run and the jackpot at the last drawing was $77,980.
The Queen of Hearts drawing involves 54 cards hidden under a covering to be revealed one card per week until the Queen of Hearts is drawn. There are 52 playing deck cards with the 2 jokers hidden.
Players at the local posts purchased tickets in increments of six for $5 and wrote a number corresponding to a hidden card on the board and their information on them before placing them in a tumbling drum. One ticket was drawn each Tuesday night and the card with the number on the ticket was revealed. When the Queen of Hearts is drawn, the winner receives 70 percent of the pot if they are present for the drawing and 60 percent if they are not present.
The winner drawn Dec. 27 after 54 weeks was Lisa Kresser, who was not present and received 60 percent of the pot. The remaining 40 percent was split between the post and local non-profit organizations. As the pot got larger and larger, the post saw more entries, attention and attendance from players, especially on Tuesday nights.
"It's really unprecedented,” Post Commander Joe Drought said. “We've never seen it go that far and nobody that I know of has seen any other post that's gone the full distance. It's never gotten this big before. It got a phenomenal response. We use this as a fundraiser and it helps out with the bar. We've seen an uptick in our lunch sales and revenue. It's been a really good thing for the post to be able to do this. It's certainly helped out with paying the bills and being able to do more in the community."
The VFW Post Board of Directors voted to distribute its $15,600 portion of the jackpot evenly to the following organizations: HOPE of Ogle County, the Rochelle Police Department K-9 Program, Rockford Sexual Assault Counseling, Pegasus Special Riders and Village of Progress.
"A big part of the purpose of the VFW is Americanism and supporting our community,” Drought said. “Because our community has been very supportive of us. We want to continue that and people to look upon veterans favorably. We want that to be a positive thing in people's minds and eyes. There have been times when we needed the support and didn't have the funds to do critical repairs on our roof or restrooms. The community really came out in support of us and helped those efforts tremendously. We want to give back when we can. It gives us great joy to be able to do it."
Drought said the post’s portion of the proceeds have been set aside as the board looks at “numerous” projects that are needed. Some of the money has been put into the operating budget to help keep the bar and restaurant running.
The VFW post commander said it was exciting to see the community come out for the Queen of Hearts contest. He said some in the community may have the misconception that the VFW is only for veterans and their families. While that was the case years ago, it isn’t now.
“That mentality changed several years ago because we were facing closing our doors and many posts have had to close their doors and give up their organization because they weren't making enough money,” Drought said. “We embrace the mentality that the public is welcome. Without the public coming and enjoying our products and services or renting a hall, we would've had to close our doors many, many years ago. It really has been a huge help."
The VFW will be starting another Queen of Hearts contest with ticket sales beginning Jan. 10 and the first drawing Jan. 17. The new jackpot is $26,840. During the last few weeks of the recent contest with a large jackpot and high ticket sales, Drought said the post had to buy a larger tumbling drum to fit all of the tickets.
“I ordered the largest one I could find,” Drought said. “We had to make sure we could fit all of the tickets. It was a good problem to have. I'd just like to thank our excellent staff here. They've been working their tails off and they've really done a great job. I give a lot of credit to our new Club Operations Manager Robin Gounaris. She's done a great job and so have all of our bartenders and food service staff. We wouldn't be anywhere near successful without them. We really appreciate all of their efforts.”