CAMAK - Shirley Thomas walked into the M & A Food Mart & Gas on Washington Road in Thomson for the first time ever on Friday, July 20.
She had heard from her 21-year-old daughter, Shantay, that she gets better gas milage when she buys her gasoline there.
So, following her daughter's advice, Mrs. Thomas stopped and pumped $10 worth of gas into her car, thinking all the time she would receive $10 change from a $20 bill she tendered to the store owner Muw - Gerbremichal.
As it turned out, Mrs. Thomas was thinking out loud, pondering about whether to purchase a Georgia Lottery Jumbo Bucks game ticket.
"The clerk overheard me, I guess, and gave me a ticket," recalled Mrs. Thomas during an interview last Saturday at her double-wide mobile home in Camak. "I went ahead and scratched off the ticket right there on the countertop. The clerk checked the ticket to see if I had won anything."
Moments later, the clerk indicated that she had - to the tune of $500,000 the grand prize for that particular $10 lottery game.
"I heard her say I was a winner, but I thought she said I had won just $500 at first," said Mrs. Thomas, who is celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary this week with her husband, Richard. "I didn't know I'd won $500,000 until a few minutes later."
Excited and overcome with joy, one of the first things Mrs. Thomas said she wanted to do was call her husband on her cell telephone and tell him of the delightful news.
"I tried Richard several times," said Mrs. Thomas. I must have let the telephone at home ring at least 50 times, but still he didn't answer."
Mr. Thomas, who is an assistant supervisor and works 12-hour shifts at Georgia Pacific in Warrenton, was asleep after a long, hard night at work.
"I couldn't get him to wake up for anything," said Mrs. Thomas.
She felt compelled to call someone and tell them of the good news. So, she ended up calling her daughter.
"I could hardly understand her when she talked to me," said Shantay Thomas. "She was saying, 'I just won. I just won. I won the lottery. She couldn't even talk. She was so excited.'"
It wasn't until four hours later after a trip to Augusta that Mrs. Thomas actually pulled back into the driveway of her residence, walked inside and went to the bedroom to awaken Mr. Thomas with the news.
"When I got back there, I said, 'Baby, wake up, wake up. I won the lottery. We're rich. I won the lottery."'
Mr. Thomas, a 30-year employee of Georgia Pacific, recalled rising quickly and sitting up in bed.
"I thought she was joking at first," said Mr. Thomas. "She started hugging and kissing me and pretty soon I knew it wasn't a joke. I couldn't go back to sleep."
The couple, happy about their winnings, immediately decided what they would do with some of the money.
"We both decided that we wanted a portion of it to go to the two churches that we love and feel very close to," said Mrs. Thomas. "We wanted God to have His share first, because He has been so good to us in our lives."
They agreed to give a portion of it to the church they attend in Thomson, as well as the church where they are members in Sparta.
"We thank the Lord for what we have and we thank Him for what we don't have," said Mrs. Thomas, a 1982 graduate of Thomson High School.
The couple also plans to renovate their home, pay-off some bills, maybe start a part-time used car/truck business and take a vacation.
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas share their home with their 3-year-old granddaughter, Cursay dez Lee. Other children include: Avery Thomas, Tara, Demetrius, Nisharro, Erica, Tregone and Demario.
The couple traveled to the Augusta office of the Georgia Lottery Corp. last Thursday, where Mrs. Thomas received the winning prize money in a ceremony with lottery District Manager John Horder.