“Have you bought a powerball ticket?” my bookstore denizens asked.
I shook my head no. It was the week when the Powerball jackpot had everyone talking about the big cashout.
“Jock and I are stretched so tight right now financially, that if I came home and said I had spent money on a lottery ticket, he would probably be done with me,” I said.
“Oh! You should!” She launched into a brief history of an acquaintance who had won various lottery pots in the past, followed by reasons people should play.
I have never played the lottery in my life; nor have I been interested in it.
Jackpot winning is big news. People are forever being interviewed about their windfalls and plans. Winners are subject to a certain amount of hounding, as others ask for or expect money, and people weigh in with heavy opinions. Frankly, it sounds stressful.
But the buzz around this jackpot got me thinking. Like many Americans, financial matters weigh heavily on my mind. Wouldn’t a sudden windfall help?
What would I really do with it? I thought.
My estimation after taxes would put the payout some where in the neighborhood of $53 million. I can’t even conceive of what that would really be. After paying off our house and Daddy’s house, along with all of our outstanding debts, that would leave $52 million.
In my fantasy, I began assigning $40 million to local charities. Obviously, as the Live Local columnist, I wouldn’t be giving money to the national offices of charities, like March of Dimes. Any contributions would be local, with certain stipulations; million-dollar gifts don’t come without strings. I think I’d ask charities to use the money something like this:
1) Please, pay off any out standing debts of the organization—mortgage, back taxes, etc.
2) Please, take at least $100,000 and set up an endowment from which the organization can draw some continuous income.
3) All remaining money must be spent locally, preferably on programs and staff. Do not send it up the line to a national office. We want to make an impact here. Please, do not go spend it at Sam’s Club, Walmart or online at 4imprint.com. Local businesses have supported your mission for years, and can provide all the materials and services found online. When you submit your end-of-grant report, we need to see receipts from local businesses, not Walmart.
(Remember this is my fantasy I can do anything I want.)
4) As stated above, please hire local staff. Please, use this money to implement programs and put people to work here.
Wow! To picture the influx of a million dollars each going to 40 nonprofits—Cape Fear Riverwatch, WHQR, Domestic Violence Shelter and Services, Inc., LINC, Good Shepherd Center, DREAMS, Rape Crisis Center, Thalian Hall, Tileston Medical Clinic, nonprofit theater companies, the literacy council, the museums, Mother Hubbard‘s Cupboard—is overwhelming. Just think about $40 million spent in our local economy and what that would look like. Think about the rolling impact.
“I would hire seven more staff member,” Linda Lytvinenko, executive director of Cape Fear Literacy Council, responded to my bait. “And facility—we need more space.”
How many people could Good Shepherd or Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard feed with $1 million each?
If money went to WHQR, I imagine the transmitter would get upgraded, more staff hired and local programming expanded significantly. That would hopefully generate people buying locally and eating at local restaurants, thereby putting more people to work.
It sounds simplistic, but the real ripple effect would be enormous. Theatre companies could pay performers a living wage. The impact of that alone would be astounding: People who routinely spend more than 20 hours a week after their day job would develop and further their skills and craft, dedicating as much if not more time than many people to professional development. To see them paid a living wage could be a major game-changer for our community.
More renovations to Thalian Hall would put members of the construction industry, interior design firms, and visual artists to work. Artists, educators, musicians, architects, the hungry and homeless, animal rescues, environmentalists, local print shops, construction supplies and hardware stores … the beneficiaries would be limitless. Not to mention by paying off mortgages and back debts, the financial drains on these organizations would be greatly reduced, allowing more money raised and brought in by grants to stay among our community rather than to have to go out of our area.
Of the $12 million still left, it is obvious that Jock’s own Full Belly Project would be the major beneficiary—say, $5 million. That would pay off their mortgage, set up an endowment and allow Jock to really make an impact with his inventions, which he gives away.
I have a short personal list of close friends who are in dire final straits; if I had the ability to help I would. So that’s another $2 million.
I dream of launching a micro press dedicated to high-end collectible books. Since it’s my fantasy and my dream, let’s put $3 million into the startup. Let’s put $2 million in savings for Jock and I to actually take a vacation (Is that possible? Can we do that?) and have a rainy-day fund for the things that happen as we go through life (medical bills, retirement, home repairs, etc.). In all honestly, the rainy-day fund would be walking around this community and seeing the impact my winnings would have for people working, renovations and preservation flourishing, children being empowered, adults reading and improving their employment skills.
I never wanted to be wealthy to have toys. Many people do; they dream of the big, immaculately decorated house, servants, boats, designer clothes and expensive cars. I want to be comfortable and have a safe roof that doesn’t leak over my head. What I really want in my adult life is to be able to patron the arts and give money to worthy causes—to be a philanthropist.
Thanks for indulging my fantasy. In lieu of the fantasy, I get to win every time I walk in the door of a small business and am greeted by name, with a smile and the knowledge that the person behind the counter has a job in part because of my choice to be there that day.