Archive for Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Shouts and Murmurs: Helping where and when we can

December 31, 2002

Wins like last week's Powerball jackpot always get the conversation going. What does a person do when literally millions of dollars are dropped in his or her lap?

Andrew "Jack" Whittaker, the West Virginia winner of last week's $314.9 million Powerball lottery, decided last week to take a lump sum payment of $113.4 million after taxes. Newspapers Monday reported that Whittaker's first charitable contribution is to his church in the form of a $334,000 check.

He wants to do what he can for those who live nearby.

"My first priority is helping West Virginia," Whittaker is quoted as saying.

What would Tonganoxie-area residents do if they won the lottery, I wondered, so I started calling to find out.

Wanda Williams, who owns Wander In, said she approved of Whittaker's first move.

"I think he had a good idea to give it to all of his churches in his town," Williams said.

If Williams won the lottery, which would be doubtful since she doesn't buy lottery tickets, she said she'd start like Whittaker -- by giving money to the churches. And next, she'd do what she could to help those who are hungry, or who can't afford the basics.

Williams said she doesn't think she'd change her lifestyle if she won.

"But it sure could be used to change a lot of other people's lives," she said.

Janet Trull, a dental hygienist in the office of Dr. Grant Ritchey, and a lifelong Tonganoxie resident, said she'd start by beautifying Tonganoxie.

"I'd probably help with all the beautification of Tonganoxie, adding to what they've done downtown and in the parks," said Trull, who added that she and her husband do buy lottery tickets.

Tammy Starcher, who works at Pelzl's Do It Best store, laughed and said her first donation would be to Don Pelzl.

"I buy Don Pelzl out," Starcher quipped. "I'd take over the store."

But on a serious note, Starcher said, if she won the lottery she'd first use it to improve the area's abused women's shelter. She said she has donated clothing to the shelter in the past.

"I'd help with whatever it took to get those women on their own and their self-confidence back so they know that they could do it on their own," Starcher said. "Whatever it would take to protect them, and their kids, too."

Starcher, who usually buys a few lottery tickets when the jackpot is high, said another good project would be a skating rink or arcade for children.

"Our kids don't have anything to do here," Starcher said. "They have to go to Lawrence or Leavenworth."

Pamela Stubbs, who volunteers at Operation WildLife, a wild animal rehabilitation center near Linwood, bought lottery tickets last week, as she usually does when the winnings are high.

Stubbs said if she won she would donate to two agencies dear to her heart -- Operation WildLife, and the Kansas City Ferret Shelter. She volunteers at both.

Monday morning before talking to me on the telephone, Stubbs had just finished cleaning a bald eagle that is recuperating at Operation WildLife. After an injury, the eagle has a pin in his wing.

Stubbs worries about wildlife, especially where housing developments are replacing wooded areas.

"They're just losing their habitat," Stubbs said.

It's inaccurate to say that wild animals need humans, she added.

"I remember in our zoology books reading something to the effect that the animals don't need us, but that we need them," Stubbs said. "That really kind of hit my heart."

So there you have it -- a handful of people who were called at random yet who each had a different answer for where they would begin if they won the lottery. I suspect Mirror readers will agree with the importance of one or more of their causes.

As we begin a new year, it might be good to think about where we can make a difference. Chances are we won't have a multimillion-dollar lottery winning to help us out, but there are smaller acts that can be effective -- donating what we can, volunteering where we can, and like the people above, keeping an eye on the community to see what it needs most.

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