Daily photos by Brennen Smith|
Edgar Foster and Anna Franks with M&M racing jackets, one of their many sweepstakes prizes.
Decatur pair swept up by sweepstakes
Anyone can play, multiple-game winners advise, but patience is required
By Paul Huggins
Of all the lucky times in Edgar Foster’s life — and that’s a mighty long list — none had a bigger payoff than when he entered a Hardee’s for breakfast four years ago.
That’s when he ran into Anna Franks, an acquaintance he hadn’t seen in several years.
From that moment, Foster’s life has been nearly consumed with winning sweepstakes. The first year alone, he won tickets to the Iron Bowl, the SEC championship game, the NFL Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl.
Since then, he’s won everything from a life-sized model of Yoda to a year’s supply of Bunny bread. In August, the retired pipefitter won a tip to Savannah, Ga., to attend a taping of a Paula Dean cooking show courtesy of Winn-Dixie, a $530 Rite Aid gift card, a $100 gift card from Publix and $100 cash from The Cartoon Network.
“Seems like every time I looked up, a UPS or Fed Ex truck was
driving up,” Foster said.
Franks isn’t Foster’s good-luck charm. They met in a grief support group after their spouses died about 10 years ago. She’s simply the person who introduced — well, actually dragged him — into the world of sweepstakes.
“I didn’t think too much of it at first,” Foster conceded.
Franks entered his name in contest entries without him knowing, and after he won a few times, he was hooked.
They now spend hours every week filling out note cards and pasting stamps, as well as surfing the Internet for contest opportunities.
“He never even used a computer till his late 70s,” Franks said of Foster, who’s 81.
Some of the prizes Anna Franks and Edgar Foster have recently won.
It’s because of mind-expanding uses that she wants to spread the word that “sweepstaking” is an excellent activity for senior citizens or anyone homebound with nothing to do.
“Anything you do to use your mind is important,” Franks, 72, said. “It can help against Alzheimer’s. Like we’re always memorizing UPC codes when we fill out the contest entries,” she said. “Just because you’re in your 70s and 80s doesn’t mean you can’t learn something new.”
For Franks, that includes singing.
Grand Ole Opry trip
In 2003, she sang the Martha White jingle in a telephone contest and won a trip to the Grand Ole Opry. She stood on stage with Marty Stuart and sang the tune again for a full audience. The prize also included $500 cash and accommodations at the Opryland Hotel.
Nashville’s been good to Foster and Franks. They’ve also won a four-day trip to hobnob with country music stars and another time won tickets, jerseys and pre-game parties to a Tennessee Titans football game.
Foster said he starts his contest quest by reading either SweepSheet, a twice-monthly newsletter for which he pays $52 a year, or a similar subscription to Best Weekly. When he sees something he likes, he fills out the entry, paying attention to instructions, such as whether to write the entry on a 3-by-5-inch card or a 4-by-6.
“For Christmas, all we ask for is envelopes and stamps,” he said.
The best advice Franks said she can give to a sweepstakes newcomer is be patient.
“Most people give up after a few months, but you can’t give up,” she said.
Foster added, “We’ve gone some months where we didn’t even win a T-shirt.”
The luckiest people probably are Foster’s and Franks’ children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They receive most of the prizes, and Franks said she rarely has to buy Christmas or birthday presents.
Combined, they’ve treated their families to pinball machines, an X-box video game system, gift cards, caps, T-shirts, toys, CDs and DVDs. Because he didn’t feel he had the strength to attend both the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl in back-to-back weekends, Foster gave the Super Bowl tickets to his children and hopped on the flight to Hawaii with Franks by his side.
“It’s just a thrill to see their eyes light up when they see what you’ve won. “About the only thing I keep is my trips,” Franks said.
$2,225 in cash
One of those trips was to New York City, but because she was too scared to take it, the contest sponsor let her take $2,225 cash instead. With what insurance didn’t pay, Franks replaced a damaged roof and had enough left for living room furniture.
Another trip, however, was an Italian cruise that would have cost about $5,000 to get to, so she turned it down with no compensation.
The down side of entering sweepstakes is spam on the Internet and junk mail, at least four items a day. This includes scams saying they’ve won a lottery from another country and asking for credit card numbers.
“If you legitimately win something, you don’t pay a penny other than taxes,” Franks said. “You pay taxes on anything worth more than $600.”
Some prizes have them scratching their heads. Last week, Franks needed her grandchildren to help explain what a personal media player was. A few years ago, Foster found a pair of snow skis waiting in his carport.
“Now they got to send me the snow to go with them,” he joked.
With Foster’s luck, all he has to do is find a contest that delivers snow.
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