“They are completely focused on how can they help to make this community a better place through this win.”

Joanne MacQueen and Marlisa Mercer, of Orillia, Ontario are best friends. They are also one million dollars richer, thanks to hitting it big on the LottoMax.

While most people would probably use the winnings to buy a new house or a new car, or maybe even retire early, the besties aren’t like most people…

What the Best Friends Decided to Do With Their Winnings

When MacQueen walked into the grocery store to buy some raspberries she had no idea she would be walking out with 2 packages of raspberries AND a million bucks.

Originally, MacQueen and Mercer bought the ticket together at a local Shoppers Drug Mart. A few weeks later, MacQueen decided to check the ticket during a routine grocery run.

She was understandably shocked when she discovered they had won.

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“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 told Orilla Matters.

At first, she thought she was reading the zeros wrong so she scanned it a second time. Turns out, she wasn’t wrong. MacQueen and Mercer became instant millionaires.

Rather than hold onto the funds, the duo decided to spread the wealth in the most wholesome way possible — by giving it back to the place they lovingly call home.

How the Lottery Winners are Giving Back to Their Small Community

69-year-old MacQueen and Mercer are committed to making their community of 33,000 people a better place.

After receiving a cheque in August, they have been busy playing fairy godmothers to a number of local charities.

They started with a cause very close to MacQueen’s heart. “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.”

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In addition to honoring MacQueen’s brother, the best friends also decided to honor their love of animals.

They donated $10,000 to the Comfie Cat Shelter, a local no-kill animal that rescues unwanted, stray and abandoned cats.

“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.”

Their Donations are Making a Real Difference to Their Home Town

Shelter manager and founder Barb MacLeod said it was one of the top five biggest donations the organization has ever received.

“We were really low on funds,” MacLeod 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.”

In addition to the cat shelter, the two friends also gave money to the Orillia SPCA, and the Farley Foundation.

However, they still weren’t done. They just kept giving. And giving. And giving.

They also donated big cheques to a number of other organizations, including a homeless shelter, a soldiers’ memorial hospital, the Salvation Army, the Royal Canadian Legion poppy campaign, Mariposa House Hospice, and the Sharing Place Food Centre.

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Chris Peacock, executive director of the Sharing Place, a food bank that provides a six-day emergency supply of healthy food once a month to those in need, said the $10,000 donation couldn’t have come at a better time. With the holidays around the corner and soaring inflation, people are struggling to put food on the table. The money makes a real difference.

“These are the types of donations that really elevate an organization,” Peacock said. “It’s a big deal.” 

He praised the friends for their unselfish giving, saying: “They are completely focused on how can they help to make this community a better place through this win. Not many people win a million bucks and have the core goal of spending it on others and improving this community.”

He’s not wrong.

So Why Are the Friends Giving Away Their Winnings?

The answer is a simple one; it makes them feel good. “It makes us feel great that we are able to do this,” MacQueen said.

The reward is in the giving.

As for what they plan on doing next? It consists of more of the same. Once they’ve exhausted local charities, they’ll pass on some money to friends and family. Anything left over will be used for home renovations.

What these best friends have chosen to do with their winnings is not only inspiring, it’s making a huge positive impact in their community. Sure, they could have spent the money on any number of luxuries but instead they chose to invest their money in the place that matters most — home.


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