$11.3 million jackpot to benefit treatment center, build shelters
Just a month ago, they were two struggling, underpaid single mothers wondering how their outpatient alcohol- and drug-treatment center was going to meet its next payroll.
Then, sisters Christine McCoy and Ursula "Pixie" Baker bought the winning ticket in an $11.3 million The Pick jackpot.
But there's no retiring to some island paradise for these two hard-core social workers.
In fact, McCoy, 50, and Baker, 58, are planning to use a sizable chunk of their earnings to throw a help net around Winslow.
"This is the most amazing lottery story you will ever see," city Administrator John Roche Jr. said. "They already had been a huge asset with their work here like being on our intoxicated street people task force. Then, this happens."
The sisters regularly play the lottery and chose the cash option on their winning ticket, which they purchased Sept. 29 at a Winslow Circle K.
The Rev. Carol Hosler of St. Paul's Episcopal Church added, "Nobody could have deserved this more or handled it better."
Winslow, a high-desert, blue-collar city along Interstate 40, whose main employer is the local state prison, has suffered for years because it does not have the resources to deal with street people from the nearby Navajo Nation and a host of other societal ills.
McCoy remembers sadly how the city missed out three years ago on a multimillion-dollar grant to start a domestic-violence shelter for women because it couldn't come up with a $100,000 match. She plans to change that with her own money.
The sisters also plan to provide the start-up funding for a men's domestic-violence shelter. They also have been talking about a homeless shelter, all of which may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The winnings have been a big shot in the arm to their own Winslow Guidance Associates, which treats 150 clients a year, most of them referrals from the federal Indian Health Service.
On this day, McCoy, business manager of the center, and Baker, a longtime counselor, are winding down from a morning chock-full of emotional interviews with clients.
McCoy says the problems are always the same at the center, which is stocked with aging furniture normally found at garage sales. Clients say they can't pay the $5 fee. The landlord is thinking that maybe they should relocate. Neighbors don't like the kind of people they bring into the area.
Now that they have won the lottery and word of that has circulated in the area, McCoy said that their phone lines have been filled with all kinds of hard-luck stories and business investment sales pitches. As McCoy and Baker are being interviewed, two people wait patiently in the lobby of the treatment center to try to sell them finely woven Navajo rugs.
"I'd never won anything, not even $5," Baker said. "I used to sit at this table and do the Reader's Digest sweepstake and dream about everything we would do if we won."
Now, it's reality.
The sisters, who grew up the daughters of an agriculture inspection agent on the border in Nogales, say they don't plan to do anything exotic with their money beyond McCoy's planned Caribbean cruise.
They just pooled their considerable resources, an estimated $6.5 million after taxes since they didn't participate in the annuity plan, to buy a large, 1910 territorial home in Winslow they had their eyes on for a long time.
McCoy and Baker say they plan to move there after refurbishing it.
"We look at this as a gift from God, and we want to be good stewards and helping out this city because of all its considerable needs," McCoy said.