The good-natured rapport and the big smiles on the faces of Consolidated Telecommunications employees who shared a winning Minnesota Millionaire Raffle ticket last week was easily Brainerd's feel-good story of the year so far.
Forty employees who bet regularly as part of a pool learned on New Year's Day or shortly thereafter that they held a winning ticket worth $1 million. They split the pot 40 ways which meant their winnings were $25,000 apiece. Once state and federal taxes were deducted each participant walked away with $16,937.50.
Now as nice as that bonus would be it's not enough to convince people to quit their job or to permanently change their lifestyle.
Their plans for the money were modest luxuries and concepts most of us could relate to easily: A vacation in Maui, a college fund for the grandkids, a car, becoming debt free.
At Wednesday's Minnesota State Lottery news conference in Brainerd, the CTC folks appeared to be hardworking colleagues who get along with each other and were pleased that they won the prize together. There was no hint of any behind-the-scene grousing among the group. They were smart enough to have clear guidelines. Forty people invested. Forty people split the winnings evenly.
Not all lottery winners are so lucky. It's not uncommon to hear of big winners whose lives were changed for the worst because of family jealousies, people constantly asking for money and the toll of leading an excessive lifestyle. They had their money but they lost their friends.
ABC News told the story last year of Jack Whittaker, a $315 million Powerball winner who regretted ever winning the lottery because of the pressures that came with it.
"Since I won the lottery, I think there is no control for greed," he said. "I think if you have something, there's always someone else that wants it. I wish I'd torn that ticket up."
However, when a reporter ran this theory-that it might actually be better to win $16,937.50 than $315 million - past one of the lucky CTC winners, he wasn't quite buying it.
He said he'd like to see what it was like to be a multi-million dollar winner, just once.
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