Lottery Jackpot

Lottery Jackpot

Co-workers at the Island Grill restaurant in Michigan collectively tell how they won and spent their $12.7-million prize money. (Detroit Free Press)

A dozen industrious but low-income waitresses, dishwashers and cooks at the down-on-its-luck Island Grill restaurant in Michigan pooled their funds and hit the jackpot with a winning lottery ticket. The Detroit Free Press ( got them to individually tell their tale of good fortune, and stitched together their accounts into one cohesive video narrative, interwoven with reactions from neighbors and townsfolk — in all, a formidable task.

After taxes and taking the lump-sum option, each winner walked away with $346,814. It was big money, considering the low cost of living in the Upper Peninsula. Some of the waitresses had never earned more than $12,000 a year. Many are single moms who were living on the edge of poverty.

For some the windfall meant a long-postponed trip to the dentist, or the novelty of a new wardrobe that wasn’t second-hand. Some put down payments on modest houses and non-luxury cars. Even their neighbors in Newberry (the “Moose Capital of Michigan,” pop. 1,700) came out ahead, as the money turned out to be a “stimulus package” that helped jump-start the stagnant local economy.

As for the Island Grill gals, some left their jobs, but ultimately they got bored and all came back to work, so that they could spend their time with what they consider to be their extended family.

CHANNEL: Detroit Free Press (

Length: 5:17

Video Production by Brian Kaufman
Story by Jeff Seidel