One year after being removed from their former residence due to an unexpected renovation, a Nova Scotia couple are reaping the benefits of a lucky lottery ticket — and using the winnings to pay it forward in their community.
Bertram and Helen Drover of Lower Sackville, N.S., won $100,000 on an Atlantic Lottery TAG draw on Nov. 6. Following the immediate shock from winning, the couple decided to use their newfound fortune to assist with combating the challenges being faced by some in their own backyard.
“We bought some heat propane tanks, and we took them down to the Cobequid encampment down here for the homeless,” Bertram Drover said in an interview with Global News on Thursday.
“Winning the money is great and the feeling in your heart when you win the money is great, but when you do something like that … there’s no other feeling in the world like helping out those folks.”
Drover said a series of events on the day he purchased the ticket all played a role in the couple’s decision to give back.
After a customer ahead of the Drovers paid for their coffee in the Tim Hortons drive-thru, the couple sat down on a hill that overlooks the encampment in Lower Sackville.
“We were drinking our coffee and I said … if we ever won any amount of money, I think I’d like to do something for these folks,” he said.
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Drover said he read a few days earlier that someone had donated heaters to those living in the nearby encampment, but they didn’t have any propane to operate them. He said the “first thing” that came to his mind after learning that he’d won the money was “I’m going to get propane for those heaters.”
‘Didn’t know where we were going to go’
The housing crisis issues hit especially close to home for the two, as they found themselves scrambling to find a new apartment just last year. Drover said their former landlord suddenly told them they had to leave due to their place needing to undergo renovations.
“We didn’t know where we were going to go,” he said.
“When it came down to the last four, five days of the month … we were panicking.”
Fortunately, the two found another place in Lower Sackville just in time.
Drover said his new apartment is a “whole lot more” than what they were paying at their old apartment, but it was his only option.
His wife, Hellen, said she was worried they would end up out in the cold when they were first notified that they needed to leave their former residence.
“You think, well, am I going to have to pitch a tent? And then you think, oh my God, what am I going to do?” she said.
She said the couple had to cut back their living standards in order to afford their new apartment.
“You make concessions, you get rid of stuff, you don’t eat like you used to … mind you now, it’s a little easier,” she laughed.
‘My god, that’s a lot of zeros’
In early November, the couple scanned their tickets through the Atlantic Lottery mobile app and received a “major winner” notification. Initially, they wondered if the message could’ve been an error and were then informed that they needed to head to a local retailer to determine the amount of their winnings.
“We went up to a local Needs store … and we took it to the lady in there, we gave it to her, she printed it off, and she couldn’t see exactly how much it was,” Bertram Drover said.
“Until the other lady looked over her shoulder and said, ‘My God, that’s a lot of zeros.'”
He said amid the shock of being on the cusp of receiving a substantial amount of money, he was told he needed to call the number printed on the ticket.
Finally, after speaking with an Atlantic Lottery representative over the phone, what the Drovers had suspected turned out to be exactly that — they were now six figures richer.
“It’s a feeling like no other,” Bertram said about winning the money.
In addition to providing the extra resources to unhoused residents in the area, the Drovers ensured their children received some assistance as well.
“We bought our daughter a car to get her through the winter and we paid off my son’s bills,” he said.
Reflecting on the circumstances leading to their recent financial relief, the couple say they believe some of their recent fortunes could have been a result of “fate” after they witnessed a “falling star” during a trip to visit their daughter in Cape Breton.
“I never experienced that before,” Helen Drover said.
The Drovers then said the two turned to each other at that moment and contemplated if what they witnessed could be an indication of something to come.
“We said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to win enough money so that we can retire comfortably and help out some folks?'” Bertram Drover said.
“Within a week, the coffee got paid for, the ticket got bought, the hundred thousand dollars was won, and here we are.”
He said he hopes his story can inspire others to do what they can to help those in need.
“Maybe somebody else will hear it, somebody else will want to chip in and maybe we can get these people out of tents and into homes,” he smiled.