WILKES-BARRE TWP. — You can do a lot of good in two minutes. Just ask Anne Opiela of Plains Township.
Opiela was the winner of the United Way of Wyoming Valley/Wegmans two-minute, $500 shopping spree and this year’s event had a different twist this year: the lucky winner did the shopping, but she donated it all to a local charity.
Everything Opiela was able to gather during her two minutes of fame went to local women’s shelter Ruth’s Place. The spree will provide lots of food, feminine hygiene products and cleaning supplies to the shelter and its 21 residents.
And when her employer, Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance heard about Opiela’s generosity, the company offered to match half the value of her spree.
When the cash register stopped ringing, the total was $651.37, slightly over the $500 prize designation, but the amount was approved on the spot by Wegmans Store Manager Dave Grossi.
“I just felt I could do something better with this,” Opiela said. “Ruth’s Place was at the top of the list. Everybody tends to forget about these causes after the holidays.”
Feeding many mouths
Opiela said she spoke and emailed back and forth with Kristen Topolski, director of programming at Volunteers of America, the agency that oversees Ruth’s Place.
“This is such a great gesture of generosity, it’s exciting,” Topolski said. “We feed 21 mouths every day. The food goes fast.”
Topolski said she asked Opiela to include feminine hygiene products, cleaning supplies and ready-to-eat foods on her list. She said Ruth’s Place served 290 women in 2017 — a total of 6,000 nights of lodging.
Bill Jones, president/CEO of the United Way of Wyoming Valley, said this was a special year for the shopping spree and he thanked Wegmans for its sponsorship if the annual event.
“But it’s really special when the winner decides to give to others in need,” Jones said.
Karen Stempowski, human resources specialist at Berkshire Hathaway GUARD, said the company and its 700 employees enjoy giving back to the community.
“We have always set that tone,” Stempowski said. “And our employees follow through.”
Grossi said the United Way is an important the community’s fabric, and Wegmans looks forward to the shopping spree every year.
“It warms my heart to see that spirit of community here today with the winner donating all of this to Ruth’s Place,” Grossi said. “This is what the Untied Way is all about — people coming together for the community.”
How she won
Opiela donated to United Way of Wyoming Valley’s 2017-2018 Community Campaign. Her name was then entered into a raffle to win a number of campaign incentive prizes.
Opiela said she has four children and two grandchildren. She said she makes enough money to provide for herself and family, so it was a quick decision for her to donate the shopping spree to Ruth’s Place.
Opiela asked her niece, Nicole Shields, to assist her with the spree.
A large crowd of folks from United Way of Wyoming Valley, Berkshire Hathaway Guard and Ruth’s Place were on hand to cheer Opiela on during her spree.
Two large shopping carts were stuffed with bags filled with items. Everything was delivered to Ruth’s Place in the city’s north end.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.