By Jeanne Sager
CALLICOON May 17, 2002 When Missy Heller scratched off her Extra Chance ticket last month, she figured shed won $25 big deal.
But when a friend at Landers River Mart in Callicoon picked up the ticket to take a peek, he told the area resident to take another look.
After nearly 12 years of buying lottery tickets with friends Bruce and Susie Reichmann, reinvesting their small winnings, Heller had hit the jackpot.
The $2 Extra Chance ticket shed purchased from a cashier at the local convenience store that day was actually worth $25,000.
I didnt have all of it scratched off, Heller explained, so I thought it was $25.
But once she realized shed finally hit the big time, the waitress and divorced mom of three started making plans.
I was in shock, she recalled. But, to be honest, I really wasnt thinking about spending the money.
I just knew it was my way out.
Heller purchased the ticket on Sunday. Monday morning, she walked into her job at a downtown restaurant and said shed be looking for something else.
Since then, Heller has been looking for a job and helping out some friends with her winnings. She helped her eldest son, Christopher, 18, purchase a car to go back and forth to college in East Stroudsburg, Pa.
She took her son Nick, 13, a BOCES student, for a shopping trip. She wanted to get something special for 10-year-old daughter Mary, a Sullivan West/Delaware Valley student.
And she offered Bob Huggins, an elderly Callicoon man she befriended during her days as a waitress, a trip to Portland, Ore. to see the sister he hasnt laid eyes on in 60 years.
Huggins has declined the offer because of health problems, but Heller has promised to fly the sister and her husband in to the area if Huggins wants to see them.
Otherwise, Heller noted, she cant do much with the money. It can help pay the rent at her Callicoon home, but with taxes already taken out, it doesnt seem like a whole lot approximately $16,000.
The money hasnt changed my life, she noted.
According to Heller, she doesnt plan to buy too many more lottery tickets. Shes won money before usually less than $100, and thats the money she and the Reichmanns have reinvested in the tickets.
I work hard for my money, Heller explained. I would rather spend money on a loaf of bread than a bunch of lottery tickets.
But she recalls winning $1,500 on the Pennsylvania lottery when Nick was a baby, and she figures the other funds shes spent on tickets were just a reinvestment of that.
And she and the Reichmanns are still buying tickets.
As it happened, the day Heller won, shed spent $6 and bought three tickets on her own. The couple wasnt in on the purchase or the winnings.
We were POd we werent in on it, Susie Reichmann said with a laugh.
Yeah, we thought we were in on any tickets she bought, Bruce added with a grin.
But the couple are glad to see some happiness come to their friend, and, Bruce said, theyre going to continue buying tickets with her at Landers.
The store has seen a rush on their tickets since Hellers stroke of good luck.
In peoples minds, theres that thought that if there was one big winner there will be another, said Chris Kellam, manager of Landers River Mart.