$25 million jackpot winner shares wealth with B.C. town
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When Bob Erb won $25 million in a Lotto Max jackpot last month, little did the people of Terrace, B.C., know that the neediest in their community had also won big time.
Blankets now show up unexpectedly for the homeless, new SUVs arrive in the driveways of those in need, and cash is doled out like it’s Christmas.
Over the last month, Erb, 60, has been quietly, unobtrusively and sometimes anonymously sharing his new-found wealth with residents in the community where he has lived for decades and continues to live.
“Everything and anything he does locally has a huge impact,” said Stacey Tyers, a poverty advocate in Terrace who works with First Nations groups, seniors and youth organizations.
“When he bought the vehicles to give away, that was a big stimulus to the economy. It helped the local dealership and it wasn’t just the vehicles.”
“He believes in paying it forward, so people he gave the vehicles to who already had a vehicle they gave their vehicle away to someone else who needed it.”
Tyers said Erb was already well-known in the resource town about 800 kilometres northwest of Vancouver where mill closures have had a major impact on the local economy. The seasonal construction worker, who’s the single father of a grown daughter, bought the winning ticket on Nov. 2 in nearby New Hazelton on his way back from his father’s funeral in Calgary.
He’s given thousands of dollars to the staff at the Chevron gas station where he bought the ticket and $20,000 to the man who sold him the winning ticket.
Erb, a marijuana advocate who has run federally for the Marijuana Party, has also given money to the homeless, providing blankets and shoes for the neediest and handed out $20 to people waiting in line at the local soup kitchen.
“We have enough good people in this community that he won’t ever be taken advantage of. It’s nice to know there are people who don’t actually want anything from him, who are just in his life because they’ve always been there,” said Tyers.
A couple of weeks ago, Kay Derksen spotted a familiar face waiting to get a soup and sandwich at the Happy Gangs Seniors Centre where she volunteers.
“He just came in and sat down and ate his lunch and was talking to some people. I know him as a nodding acquaintance and he was just the same as he’s always been,” said Derksen.
People asked Erb whether he was eating steak every night and he replied that he still ate home-cooked food, enjoyed an occasional lunch at Subway and his tastes hasn’t changed.
After lunch, Erb came over to Derksen, who is the secretary of the organization that runs the seniors centre, and asked her what date it was. She told him and he said, “I’m writing a cheque out.”
“I thought he was paying a bill but he wrote out the cheque and handed it to me and I thought, it’s $200. That’s really generous and then I saw more zeroes and realized it was $20,000,” said Derksen.
When she tried to thank him, Derksen said Erb just said he wanted to help out because he thought the seniors centre was doing a great job in the community.
Carol Sabo, the executive director of a homeless shelter, has known Erb for 40 years and said aside from disconnecting his phone, her friend has not changed from the man he was before he won the lottery.
“We’ve partied together over the years, this man is not a pot head and he’s not someone who is going to let this change his life,” said Sabo. “When he didn’t have money, he still helped out where he (could). He’s just able to help out differently now. But his heart and his head is still the same as it’s always been.”