South Carolina retailer uses lottery commission to feed the hungry for Thanksgiving

By Kate Northrop

ANDERSON, S.C. — More often than not, it’s the prize winners who use their winnings to perform generous acts and good deeds. This Thanksgiving, a convenience store that received a $3,500 commission for selling a lottery ticket worth $350,000 is using those extra funds to give back to the community by providing meals to the hungry.

Earlier this month, a South Carolina woman bought a $10 “Mighty Jumbo Bucks” scratch-off ticket from the KP Food Mart on East River Street in Anderson and won a $350,000 jackpot. Having only just opened its doors for business about two months before, the $3,500 commission received from selling a top prize gave the convenience store some great financial support and publicity very early on.

Following the big win, the woman who scored the top prize mailed the store a copy of the winning ticket, which store manager Aggi Tarnowski proudly framed and put up for display in the store.

“We have been open only like two-and-[a]-half months, and this is a big thing for us to bring some positive vibes in Anderson as a new store,” Tarnowski, who is Polish, said. “It also shows the people us, as foreigners, can have good input in the community.”

With Thanksgiving Day approaching, the store staff knew that the best way to benefit the community would be to use those extra funds to provide free meals for those in need of one.

“We’re going to have a Thanksgiving dinner for all of my walk-in traffic and homeless people around here,” Tarnowski said. “We’re cooking all the sides, turkeys, everything — the whole nine yards. The food is going to be free for all who need it.”

Store supervisor Melissa Grimmette credits Tarnowski for coming up with the idea of providing those in need with warm meals for the holiday, an idea that store owners Prasanna Parvatneni and Ritesh Patel quickly supported.

“It started because Aggi wanted to [feed the community],” Grimmette explained. “She has a lot of traffic and people coming in who need food. She gives away the biscuits and things after a certain time, so she already wanted to do this. Of course, having the extra funds, [the owners] figured they’d help out and match whatever we get. They’re really good about that.”

Both Tarnowski and Grimmette split the responsibilities for prepping the Thanksgiving meals. While Grimmette fries the turkeys, Tarnowski is whipping up some macaroni and cheese, dressing, green bean casserole, and rolls. They anticipate that all the meals will be packaged up and ready to be handed out at the store by 2:00 pm on Thanksgiving Day.

Word of KP Food Mart’s plan got around, and although the store was teed up to completely fund the food and preparations with the commission earned from the lottery win, local customers chipped in and donated their own food to contribute to the act of kindness. One customer, Marian Livesay, dropped off three frozen turkeys on Monday morning.

This is also not the first time the retailer organized a well-thought-out act of good will, and it certainly won’t be the last. Tarnowski and Grimmette had handed out candy for Halloween this year, and any leftover food from tomorrow’s Thanksgiving meals will be donated to a nonprofit. The leftover funds from the commission check, they decided, will then be used to support needy families for Christmas.

While they expect to feed up to 30 people tomorrow with the meals they prepared, they made sure to emphasize that no one would be turned away and that they would use the donated food or find the means to ensure that everyone who needs a warm Thanksgiving meal will get one.

“We’re not going to judge anyone; we’re all humans and nobody is perfect,” Tarnowski remarked. “I might not have much, but whatever I have, I’d give it all away. I will get it back tenfold, and I will be blessed for it.”

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