Millionaire plans to keep serving lunch to students

Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
Georgia Lottery district manager John Hodor (from left) presents a check to Daisy Atwell outside the Bi-Rite in Hephzibah where she bought her ticket. Also celebrating are her son, Arthur Griffin, and her sister Gloria Warren.

Burke County High School students going through the lunch line are having their chow served up by a millionaire.

Daisy Mae Atwell, 46, a food service worker since 1999, won $1 million last week scratching off a $300 Million Gold Rush ticket.

Until then, she said, she had been living paycheck to paycheck, scraping by on $700 per month. She lives in an apartment in Waynesboro, shared by her daughter and two grandchildren.

On the night of Jan. 4, she and her 27-year-old son, Arthur Griffin, were cruising around south Augusta in her Oldsmobile Royale. Mr. Griffin coyly explained that Burke County doesn't allow stores to sell liquor, so he had to cross into Richmond County.

"I wasn't getting liquor, though," Ms. Atwell said.

They stopped at the Bi-Rite store on Mike Padgett Highway, just north of the Burke County line. Ms. Atwell bought a $10 lotto ticket and scratched it off in the car. She matched two 12s, and the prize below said "$1MILL."

"I didn't believe it," she said. "I told him to look at it."

Mr. Griffin said he took the ticket back into the store, and a cashier confirmed they had a winner.

Ms. Atwell said she plans to keep working at the high school, albeit with less stress in her life. She wants to buy a house for her family and a new car.

The way she sees it, she's getting a massive pay raise, courtesy of the Georgia Lottery. She'll receive annual payments of $50,000 for the next 20 years, a lottery official said Thursday.

Accepting her oversized, $1 million check outside the Bi-Rite store, Ms. Atwell was reserved, but beaming, as the cameras snapped.

"Give us that look you had when you scratched it off," Georgia Lottery sales representative Toni Rautenberg said.

"OK," Ms. Atwell said, then she closed her eyes and pretended to go limp.

Since the $300 Million Gold Rush game started a year ago, 13 people in Georgia have won $1 million and eight people have won $2.5 million. Before it's over, seven more people will win $1 million and two more will win $2.5 million, according to the Georgia Lottery Corp. Lottery profits pay for educational programs such as the HOPE scholarship and the state's Pre-K program.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.