An Eastern Passage woman has a lot more to celebrate this holiday season after winning the biggest-ever jackpot in the Nova Scotia Firefighters weekly 50-50 raffle — $878,050.
The group announced via Facebook on Thursday night that Vanessa Ross was the winner of the pre-Christmas jackpot.
The cheque presentation will take place on Monday.
Andrew Wallis, the administrator of the draw on behalf of the Amherst Firefighters Association, said the raffle has been going on for 82 weeks and has built up a solid base of supporters.
According to Wallis, they had noticed an increased spend at Christmas last year and were hoping for a similar spike this year but the actual amount exceeded expectations.
"We did a little bit of extra marketing and some advertising this month hoping to boost our sales and it ended up going three times what we had hoped it was," he said
"I guess everybody's getting locked down again and this Christmas season, so they got a little Christmas spirit and decided to share it with us."
He said organizers were still trying to "digest" the overwhelming response and he suspects there might be a million-dollar prize in store for New Year's Eve.
There are 262 fire departments and agencies participating in the raffle from all over Nova Scotia, Wallis said, and every department benefits based on a percentage of how many tickets they sell.
Ross chose to support the Gore District Fire Department and its members will receive a $1,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket.
She wasn't immediately available for an interview.
Use of funds
Each department is free to choose how they spend their share of the raffle earning, according to Wallis.
He said the Amherst Firefighters Association — which has its capital expenditures covered by the town — spends its share on its building, members, the community, youth projects and sports teams.
Other departments, he said, use the money to make the loan payments on their trucks or for building additions to their fire halls.
Wallis said the raffle has become the only source of fundraising for many small fire departments during the pandemic. The money is used for personal protective equipment, called bunker gear, and basic firefighting equipment.
He said one of the most important tools departments are buying are extrication tools to use in situations like car accidents.
Although the jackpot has reached dizzying heights, Wallis does not think future payouts will increase by more than 15 per cent."We're pretty well maxed out," he said. "Almost 90 percent of the fire departments in the province are now participating, so we can't grow anymore that way."
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