Maryland's Lotto game has made millionaires out of 490 winners since the game began in 1983, but yesterday apparently was the first time any of them turned over part of their initial checks to help Bea Gaddy feed the hungry in East Baltimore.
Michael and Carolyn Rogers of Sparrows Point won $3 million in the April 10 Lotto drawing. Surrounded by friends and family yesterday at the High's convenience store on Sparrows Point Road where they bought the winning ticket, they gave Ms. Gaddy $5,000.
Although the couple had never met Ms. Gaddy, they had followed her work through the news media. "I always said she'd be first," said Mrs. Rogers.
"These people [the hungry and homeless] were families at one time, and a lot of them are in a place they never thought they'd be," Mr. Rogers said. "We just thought the Good Lord said, 'This is your blessing; see what you can do with it.' "
"I'm just glad somebody thought of us after a big win," said Ms. Gaddy, who noted it was the first time anyone had. She said her shelter fed 570 people on Monday, a record. The money will probably be used to buy a new freezer, she said.
The Rogerses, who have seven children ages 14 to 27, and five grandchildren, collected an after-tax state check for $96,750 yesterday for winning the twice-weekly Lotto game. The check will be followed by 19 annual checks for $108,750, also after taxes.
In addition to their donation to Bea Gaddy's Family Center, the Rogerses said they would donate $1,000 to a food fund run by Mr. Rogers' union, Local 37 of the International Union of Operating Engineers.
"There are a lot of good union men out of work right now," he said.
Mr. Rogers, 39, is a heavy-equipment operator for C. J. Langenfelder & Son Inc. He was out of work himself for six months last year after a back operation -- his fifth -- and fell behind in rent payments on the family's house. Had it not been for the understanding and patience of their landlady, Joann Helsel, they said, they, too, might have been homeless and hungry.
"This is our Bea Gaddy," said Mrs. Rogers, her arm around Ms. Helsel. Both women fought back tears. The rent is now current, and the Rogerses said they also had a "gift" for Ms. Helsel.
The Rogerses said they never spent more than $4 a week on lottery tickets, but the family's luck has been extraordinary. They won $37.50 on the Pick 3 game and $1,313 on Pick 4 in 1991. Last Saturday, Mrs. Rogers' sister won $100,000 in the West Virginia lottery.
In addition to the charitable donations, Mr. Rogers said he already has bought himself a new pickup truck. The couple also plans to buy property in West Virginia. But for now, they plan to stay in their rented home in Sparrows Point. "And I'm going back to work; I didn't quit my job," said Mr. Rogers, adding that if he didn't work, "I believe I'd go crazy."