If you won a $1 million lottery prize, what’s the first thing you’d do with some of that money?
For Carol Leonard of Tappan, there was no doubt about the answer: Pots.
“I’m finally going to get a set of pots that all match,” said Leonard, 64, who on Wednesday picked up her winnings for hitting the $1 million top prize in the New York Lottery's Millionaire Madness scratch off contest.
Leonard, a mother of four and grandmother of 13, won the prize after buying $5 scratch off tickets with money her husband, Bruce, gave her in a Valentine’s Day card. On Wednesday, she met with Lottery officials and Lottery announcer Yolanda Vega to celebrate her win at the neighborhood store where she bought the winning ticket, the Tappan Mini Mart on Western Highway in Tappan.
A dog lover with two cherished dogs at home, Leonard also said her lottery win will give her the opportunity to increase her support of humane society organizations that assist animals.
Leonard, a longtime volunteer at the South Orangetown Ambulance Corps, is the first Rockland County Lottery player of 2011 to win or share a jackpot prize valued at $1 million or more. Other recent winners include: Theodore Brucale of Pearl River and his three daughters who split a $7 million Lotto jackpot in 2009; Jemps St. Fleur of Monsey who won $1 million on the Money instant game in 2009; and Essa Jallad of Tappan who claimed a $1 million share of a $64 million Mega Millions jackpot won by Mary Shammas of Brooklyn in 2010.
Vega said that Leonard’s odds of winning the top prize in the Millionaire Madness game was more than 1 in 2.6 million.
"I thought, 'it can't be,'" Leonard said as she thought back to Valentine’s Day and started realizing she might have won big. "It was one of four tickets I bought with some money my husband tucked inside my Valentine's Day card. I bought four tickets to scratch during my morning coffee break at work. It only took one scratch on the first ticket and I saw the 'jackpot' symbol. I was in shock.”
Leonard asked a fellow member of the South Orangetown Ambulance Corps to double check the game care. “Then we were both in shock," she remembered.
The $1,000,000 prize on the Millionaire Madness ticket will be paid as an annuity. Vega said Leonard will receive her prize in 20 annual net payments of $33,015 a year through 2030.
Leonard and her husband, who is a longtime volunteer with the Tappan Fire Department, expect the money will allow them to help their children and grandchildren. However, Leonard said she doesn’t think the prize will make a big change in her life — she’s going to keep on volunteering at the ambulance corps and she’s going to keep on buying Lottery tickets at the Tappan Mini Mart.
“I thought she was kidding me when she called up and said we won the lottery,” said Bruce Leonard, who is an ex-Tappan fire chief. “She’s a good person. She deserves to win. Everyone loves her.”
Because Carol Leonard’s big win came from a scratch off ticket, there’s no bonus — this time — for Tappan Mini Mart owner Paul Blits. However, Blits, who has owned the store for four years, said he was excited by Leonard’s win and having the ceremonial check presentation in his store.
He noted that until now the biggest prize won at his store was $50,000. As Leonard picked up her prize, she took time to thank Blits and mini mart clerk Amoob Kumar, who sold her the winning ticket.
Carol Leonard said she plans on continuing her work with the South Orangetown Ambulance Corps, where she helps keep track of scheduling and finances.
“I love being part of an organization that helps people,” said Leonard.