Sandy Brackman and her brother Cecil Warren thought they were coming to Ballwin from their O'Fallon home to award a car to a deserving military veteran.
What they didn't know was they were the ones who would get the car. With the passing of a set of keys to the 1999 Saturn SC, Brackman clasped her hands over her mouth and let the tears flow.
"You don't know how much this means to me," she said later, after she'd composed herself. "I don't usually stutter like this."
VIDEO: Watch the attached video to see Sandy's reaction when she gets the keys.
Brackman is a junior vice president of the women's auxillary for VFW post 5077 in O'Fallon. She and her brother, a Vietnam veteran, won the car from Cars4Heroes, a Kansas City-based nonprofit, and Tide Dry Cleaners, which has partnered with Cars4Heroes to give away three or four cars in recent months.
The dry cleaner just opened its first outlet in the St. Louis area in Ballwin several weeks ago.
"One of our franchisees had a previous relationship with (Cars4Heroes)," said Andy Gibson, marketing manager for Tide Dry Cleaners. "It doesn't have much to do with dry cleaning, but it has a lot to do with serving people, and that's what we're about."
Indeed, Sandy is a dynamo for the veterans organizations she works with. She cooks for the post, runs errands and prepares luncheons for the funeral when a veteran dies. Does the set-up for bingo nights and a litany of other tasks, working four days a week for the VFW post.
"Now I'll be able to make it to all these things without having to ask everyone else to drive me around," she said. "I'm just overwhelmed."
Terry Franz, who calls himself the "Car Santa" for Cars4Heroes, said the two-person organization has given away 300 cars a year for about 18 years.
"We decided we were going to make a presence here in St. Louis," he said. He pointed to NAPA Auto Parts for providing parts to help, and organizations such as car dealers and Tide Dry Cleaners for donating cars, or the money to help acquire them. Cars4Heroes takes donations.