NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> “Somebody is going to win a car tonight,” said an excited Michelle Knobloch, the executive director of Pickering Manor, as thunderous cheers filled the lobby area of the retirement and nursing facility on Lincoln Avenue.
Inside Pickering Manor Friday night dreams of winning a 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250, or $25,000 in cash, swept through a crowd numbering about 100 as they shared conversations over cocktails and hors doerves.
Pickering board member John Parry, who also chairs the board of The First National Bank of Newtown, stepped to the fore to welcome everyone to Pickering’s 5th Annual Car Raffle as Knobloch stood ready to give a tumbler containing 590 tickets a final few turns.
“We started this five years ago and we could never have done this without the help of Mercedes-Benz Princeton and Tom Knobloch,” said Parry. “For all of you who are in need of a Mercedes and don’t win tonight, Tom has a lot of business cards and he’d be happy to see you.”
With that said, Knobloch gave the tumbler the final few churns mixing up the tickets inside.
The honor of drawing this year’s winning ticket was given to Pickering Manor resident Kip Reilly who reached inside and pulled out the winner of the grand prize.
“Oh my goodness,” said Knobloch who hesitated for a few minutes before reading the names of the winners who happened to be in attendance at the event, a first in the raffle’s five year history. “It’s Chip and Tommy,” she said, beaming with excitement.
The stunned winners - longtime friends and retired business partners, Tommy Drotar of Newtown and Chip Tomlinson of Langhorne - made their way through the crowd with their wives, Nancy and Sue, as the place erupted in applause.
Knobloch congratulated the friends, presenting them with a bottle of champagne and the keys to their new car as more applause filled the lobby and adjacent rooms.
The two friends, who operated the Newtown Beverage Company for a quarter of a century and have been buddies since the seventh grade at the Newtown School (now the Chancellor Center) bought the winning ticket just moments before the drawing during the cocktail party.
“We each buy a ticket before hand and then we buy one together at the drawing,” explained Tomlinson.
“And he says to me tonight, ‘Look. I bought it last time and it didn’t work. You buy it this time,’” said Drotar.
With the lucky streak Drotar’s been having this year, it turned out to be a smart move.
“I can’t believe it. My year has been so special, and to have this cap it off - gosh,” said Drotar. “The Eagles won the Super Bowl. My Villanova Wildcats won the national championship and I caught a (250 pound) blue Marlin (in Hawaii).
“My wife said, ‘We’ll, you got your three, buddy.’ I said, ‘Let’s go for four and here it is. This will go down in my record book for sure.”
Drotar volunteers at Pickering once a week, taking 95-year-old resident Sam Silverman out for a bowl of chili and a beer. “We started off with six guys and we used to have a boys club. Now we’re down to one. But I’d take them out to different restaurants.”
Drotar’s wife, a hospice nurse who previously worked at Pickering as a home care nurse, encouraged her husband to volunteer at the Manor following his retirement.
“I guess I’ve been coming here for about five years now,” he said. “Everyone is so nice here. The place is so clean. Pickering is just a good place. It’s so well run. It’s a great place. And it’s such a great cause to get behind.”
Tomlinson has had relatives who have spent time at Pickering over the years and is equally supportive of the facility, the only nonprofit retirement facility in Pennsylvania owned and operated by the community. “Everyone here was wonderful. It couldn’t have been better.”
“Keep smiling,” someone yelled out to the two friends, as their faces beamed.
“This is ridiculous,” said Drotar. “I’m smiling so much that my ears are starting to hurt.”
Knobloch said she’s thrilled the two friends, who both have special connections to Pickering, had won. “This is awesome,” she said. “It’s also heartwarming to know that so many care and support Pickering. The response from the community has been tremendous” over the past five years, Knobloch said of the Raffle, the biggest fundraiser of the year for the independent, personal and skilled care facility.
The raffle’s second prize was won by Nancy Klikus of Washington Crossing who was there with her husband Ed to accept the $1,000 VISA gift card. She received a bouquet of flowers along with the gift card.