When Jeff, a chimney sweep and small business owner from Massachusetts, pitched in to support the campaign, he had no idea that his donation would earn him two seats next to President Obama during the Betting on America bus tour.
"It was unbelievable. I never thought that I would win. What got me to enter was that I'm trying to donate a little each month, and I had done it the month before. I didn't even know it was a contest—I just had no idea. But to win that and meet the President of the United States, well—as I told him, it was the second best thing that ever happened to me, after getting married."
Jeff says it took a while for the news to sink in:
"When my wife Cheri and I first learned we'd be going, we were just flabbergasted—I kept telling her, 'I won't believe it until we're on the bus and we get to see him.'
"But sure enough, we got into Ohio on the 4th of July, stayed over at a hotel, and the next day we went to the airport. We got to go out on the tarmac and stand next to the bus and wait for Air Force One. It just gave me goosebumps to see it come in—it's not like watching any other plane.
"Then we saw them push up the stairs to let the President off, and he came out and gave a little wave to all the people watching. He came down the stairs and walked right over to us—he already knew our names. He said, 'Hi, Cheri! Hi, Jeff!' He shook my hand and gave my wife a hug. I was just elated. And then we got on the bus, sat down at a little table, and just started talking. My wife and I are still just floating up in the air. "
There was one thing Jeff couldn't wait to tell the President:
"If it weren't for him, I never would have gotten the loan I needed to start up the retail part of my business, which allows me to sell my wood stoves and gas stoves. So I told him, 'That stimulus plan, Mr. President, it worked very well for me. That's how I expanded my shop.' We got to talk about the business a little bit, and it was just so exciting—it even turned out one of his staff had been a chimney sweep when they were a kid. It definitely brought a grin to his face when I told him how much I liked the Recovery Act.
"Then we got to talking about our daughters and our families—I'm from a single-parent family, and my mother raised five of us. The President said he knew how hard his mom had worked to raise him and his sister, and I told him I thought probably what made us both so strong is the women who brought us up. He seemed to like that.
"Then we went to Maumee and sat right behind him while he gave his speech. Afterwards, he was shaking everybody else's hand, and my wife and I figured we'd stand back because we'd already gotten the chance to meet him, but he made sure to come right over and see us both. He gave my wife another hug and shook my hand and shoulder-bumped me. I kept saying to my wife, 'Wow! I got shoulder-bumped by the President of the United States!' It was the most awesome thing in the world."
While Jeff was already an enthusiastic supporter, meeting the President made him even more committed to making sure he wins in November:
"It was just great talking to him. And I deeply believe now more than ever that our country needs him in office—I've gotten to meet the man, and I know that he's genuine. He feels our pain. And his plans are working. I see it every day: Jobs are coming into Massachusetts, manufacturing companies are putting up hiring signs, he's helping small businesses. It takes time to fix these things, but he's doing it.
"I'll probably go into 500 houses this fall for my business, and I will tell everybody my story—I'm going to tell everyone how gracious he is, how funny he is, how down to earth. He's like us. He may live in the White House, but he doesn't live in a bubble. He knows what's happening out here, and he cares. It just warms my heart. I think I'm going to turn some people around, because I don't give up. I'm very persistent. I'll work all day, I go all over the place, so I'm going to spread the word and do the best I can."
Jeff hopes the President took something away from the experience as well:
"After I met him, I said, 'I'm so glad you shook my hand,' because there's a superstition that shaking a chimney sweep's hand brings you nothing but luck. If you've seen Mary Poppins, Dick Van Dyke even sings a song about it. And the President smiled and said he had seen that—he said, 'Yes, I do know.'"
Join Jeff—give what you can to support the campaign today.