JoAnn MacQueen and Marlisa Mercer, of Orillia, are committed to making a difference in the community with their $1-million Lotto Max winnings.
The best friends bought the winning lottery ticket at Shoppers Drug Mart on Front Street for the June 7 draw. While grocery shopping at Metro in July, they scanned the ticket and learned of their win.
“On the checkers, it doesn’t say you won, it doesn’t make any sound. It just came up as $1 million and a free play,” MacQueen explained. “I thought I was reading the zeros wrong, so I scanned it again and it said $1 million, big winner, plus a free play.”
MacQueen, 69, never thought she would win the lottery and admits she was stunned after hitting the jackpot.
“I was actually shaking,” she said. “It was pretty cool.”
Before MacQueen and Mercer received their winnings in August, they had decided they wanted to use the money to do good in the community.
“My brother, who died in March, was an alcoholic,” MacQueen said. “So, we are giving to places that he might have accessed if he lived in Orillia.”
The friends have donated various amounts of money to the Lighthouse, Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, the Orillia SPCA, the Farley Foundation, the Salvation Army, the Royal Canadian Legion poppy campaign in Orillia, Mariposa House Hospice, and the Sharing Place Food Centre.
Chris Peacock, executive director of the Sharing Place, says he is grateful for the $10,000 donation.
“These are the types of donations that really elevate an organization,” he said. “It's a big deal.”
He says the donation helps the Sharing Place with its food costs, which is timely amid soaring inflation and with the holiday season approaching.
“They are completely focused on how can they help to make this community a better place through this win,” he said. “Not many people win a million bucks and have the core goal of spending it on others and improving this community.”
The local duo also decided to donate $10,000 to the Comfie Cat Shelter.
“I like that they are a no-kill shelter,” MacQueen said. “I think that they get overlooked because they are independent and don’t have a lot of backing.”
Shelter manager and founder Barb MacLeod called the donation “fantastic.”
“It covers our vet bill for October, and it gives us money for more spay and neuters,” she said, noting the money is among the top five biggest donations the shelter has received.
MacLeod says when the lottery winners approached her with the donation, it brought her to tears.
“We were really low on funds,” she said. “We’ve been having a rough few weeks with people surrendering cats to us that were not healthy. This takes a big load off us.”
Being able to help local charities has been rewarding for MacQueen and Mercer.
“It makes us feel great that we are able to do this,” MacQueen said.
With the money remaining after their donations, MacQueen and Mercer will give to family and friends. They will also do some home renovations.