Spend some time with recently retired grocery store owner Jerry Rechek, and you’re bound to hear: “Remember, it’s for the kids.” That’s because this Dodge County resident devotes much of his time to generating support for local schools and other non-profit youth groups.
“Grandpa Rechek’s Golf Outing” is perhaps his best known project benefiting children. Held the third Sunday in July at the Beaver Dam Country Club, this event has raised $252,566 for local parochial schools. Rechek started the annual golf outing in 1996, the same year he moved his now-thriving family grocery store to its present, larger location.
Rechek and his wife, Marcia, had bought a small grocery store in Beaver Dam in 1985. “We went through some tough times in the beginning,” recalls Rechek. “We talked about it,” he said, and pledged “if we make it, we’ll give back to the community.”
Business improved, and they moved Rechek’s Food Pride to its current site in 1996. “You can’t imagine how many requests we receive to support different causes,” he said, including requests to sponsor stock cars. The family decided they would give priority to community causes, with special emphasis on youth groups.
Since the elder Rechek’s retirement last year, his son, Brett, has taken over management of the store. “It was Brett’s and my dream to start (the golf outing),” said Rechek. Among store vendors, area businesses, dedicated volunteers and event participants, the golf outing raises enough money to make an annual gift of $10,000 to St. Katharine Drexel School.
In 1999, Grandpa Rechek’s Golf Outing began giving $10,000 annually to St. Stephen Lutheran School, too. “My father wants parents to be able to afford the option of parochial schools for their children,” explained Brett. As good as the public schools are, he said, the Rechek family strongly believes the ability of parochial schools to teach about God makes a noticeable difference in the lives of their students.
Occupation: Director of youth ministry, Tosa Trio of Parishes
Book recently read: “A Good Walk Spoiled” by John Feinstein
Favorite movies: “The Old Man and the Sea” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Favorite quotation: “Treat everyone the way you wanted to be treated.”
(Catholic Herald photo by Sam Arendt)
Rechek’s efforts to keep Catholic education affordable include chairing SKDS’s endowment board. “We began in 1988, and now have just over $1 million in the fund,” he said. In fact, he said, they began the golf outing with the intention of having the proceeds go to the endowment fund. “All the money does go to the school,” he said, “but much of it goes into operating funds.”
In addition, Rechek is a board member and enthusiastic supporter of Green Valley Enterprises, Inc., a Beaver Dam nonprofit agency that offers services for people with disabilities, including a Birth to 3 program, adult daycare for Alzheimer’s patients, and job coaching for cognitively disabled people.
Rechek has spent his entire career in the grocery business, starting as an apprentice meat cutter at age 18, and working his way up to store management. He and Marcia grew up in Waupun – Rechek on a farm, and Marcia in the city. They celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary on Oct. 31, and have three sons, Brett, Dean and Judd, and four grandsons.
Any special reason they married on Halloween? Yes, said Rechek. They planned to be married Oct. 24. However, that was the opening of pheasant hunting season, Rechek explained. “I thought: I’ll be missing it every year for our anniversary. So we moved the wedding back one week.”
In September 2006, SKDS wanted to show its appreciation to the Recheks. “Barb (Barbara Haase, SKDS principal) called and asked ‘when’s a good time you and Jerry can come?’” said Brett. He told her they could come that afternoon, “but she wouldn’t tell me what it was about.”
They arrived to see the students lined up outside the school, each holding up a letter spelling out “T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U G-R-A-N-D-P-A R-E-C-H-E-K!” Rechek treasures these letters, and has them hanging in the family store.
“It is a delight and a privilege to know Jerry,” wrote Haase in a recent email to your Catholic Herald. “They just don’t come any finer than this.”