From Harrison Daily Times
You know those Publishers Clearing House commercials in which people win big cash prizes? Well, they’re real — just ask Chuck Osterhout.
Howie Guja with the PCH Prize Patrol and a camera crew were in Harrison on Saturday to deliver a $1 million prize to Chuck and his wife, Crystal, at their home in the northern part of Newton County.
Guja explained that Osterhout has been entering the PCH Giveaway for a long time. Most people enter by playing games on pch.com and they accumulate tokens, Guja said.
Chuck had built up almost two billion tokens. Guja said Chuck had the most tokens he’s seen a prize winner accumulate in the six years he’s been working for the Prize Patrol. Other winners with 200 million would be almost unusual.
Guja and crew stopped at Harrison Flower & Gift, where owner Ohmer Dyal had created a bouquet of roses to be presented to Chuck, along with an oversized check for $1 million.
But, how would they know Chuck would be home?
“We don’t,” Guja said. “That’s the thing.”
He said people win PCH prizes all the time, but many are as small as $100. Those prizes are delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
The Prize Patrol had routinely delivered larger prizes in person. The pandemic has slowed that some, but Saturday was a major prize and had to be delivered in person.
Winners are never notified by phone, mail or email that they won. The Prize Patrol always surprises the winner at home if possible. Sometimes they catch the winner at their place of employment if they’re not home at the time.
Guja and crew loaded up flowers and balloons and headed south for the Osterhout residence in the very northern edge of Newton County on Boat Mountain Road.
As they arrived on the road near the residence, Guja and crew got out and started the walk up to find Chuck. As luck would have it, Chuck was working outside. The group moved up the driveway and he walked out to meet them.
“We’re looking for Chuck,” Guja said.
“You found him,” Chuck answered.
The process then became a scene most people wouldn’t ever imagine happening.
Guja said Saturday was Super Prize Day. A major prize was going to be awarded and people all over the country were looking out their windows hoping to see the Prize Patrol.
“And, guess what?” Guja asked.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Chuck answered.
“I am not joking around, Chuck,” Guja said. He turned the oversize check around to face Chuck and said, “You’ve won a million dollars from Publishers Clearing House.”
He handed Chuck the oversized check and he looked at it with what appeared to be at least some skepticism.
“Can you believe it?” Guja asked.
“No, not really,” Chuck said.
“Did you ever think that the Prize Patrol would actually come to your door?” Guja asked.
“No,” Chuck said, “not in a million years.
“But, you kept on entering,” Guja said. “Why did you keep entering?”
“Because,” Chuck said, holding his thumb and forefinger close together, “there was about that much hope.”
Crystal was visiting her parents in Hasty at the time the Prize Patrol arrived. Guja asked Chuck if Crystal knew he had entered the sweepstakes.
“Oh, yeah, she’s been calling me nuts for it for years,” Chuck said.
Guja asked Chuck to call Crystal and put her on speakerphone so they could all talk. Guja had already texted her a picture of Chuck holding the oversized check, but she had no idea the source because Guja’s cell phone number is from New York.
Crystal answered the phone with obvious disbelief in her voice. Guja asked Crystal if she had discouraged Chuck from playing the sweepstakes games.
“I did,” she said, “because I was sure it wasn’t real.”
Guja assured her that it was real, that Chuck had just one $1 million.
“I just want to talk to my husband,” Crystal said. She was still in obvious disbelief.
“You’re on speaker, hon,” Chuck said with a laugh.
“You do realize that I live in Newton County and I know how to shoot a gun and this is not even funny,” Crystal said.
Guja assured her again that it was not a prank. He asked her to come back home so he could tell her in person. And she did just that.
“Are you serious?” she asked as she got out of her vehicle. She said she knew her husband as the “ultimate prankster and I did not believe you for a second.”
But after a few more minutes of talking, and after Guja explained that he brought a check as a down payment on the prize, the Osterhouts started to come to the realization that they had come into a windfall.
They had no immediate plans for a special celebration at the time. Chuck will return to work Monday as a forklift driver at WestRock in Harrison for the next week, until he takes two weeks of prescheduled vacation to go to deer camp with family members
They said they will use the money to pay off their place and use the rest to spoil grandchildren, as well as taking care of their parents.
“Money means nothing to me, it don’t” Crystal said. “But it’s a blessing. You give and you get blessed. That’s just the way it is.”
And they agreed some divine intervention was likely involved.
“I can’t thank God enough,” Chuck said. “I know He had a hand in this.”