Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Her Lottery Tickets Pay out in More Ways Than Money

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Her Lottery Tickets Pay out in More Ways Than Money

Article excerpt

Her plan couldn't be simpler: On her 65th birthday, buy 65 Pennsylvania Lottery tickets. Give 'em away to strangers, one ticket at a time.

Jackie Keiner Szwarc of Shaler dressed down for the event during Tuesday's lunch hour, wearing a long blue coat, trying not to look like she was selling something. She'd had this idea for a while and bought the scratch-and-win tickets for a buck apiece at a Shop 'n' Save the day before.

"Tornadoes, high gas prices, people out of work," she told me beforehand. "I want to prove a point by paying it forward."

For a woman who once coordinated the sale of more than 10,000 Girl Scout cookies in this region each year, she was pretty timid. Watching her walk into the center of Market Square was like watching an uncertain swimmer head for the pool on a cold day.

"She'll get going, though," husband Ron Szwarc said. "You watch."

Hers wasn't ordinary behavior, so the people she approached waited to hear the catch. It never came, despite Ms. Szwarc's approach having a bit of the rhythm of a sales pitch:

"Excuse me, ma'm. Today is my birthday. I'm giving out lottery tickets ... "

You could watch a hard look soften, then morph into a smile and, in many cases, shift into hug mode after she handed over the ticket.

"I think it's a great thing," Kenneth Averytt of Highland Park said after giving her a long hug.

"That's a new one on me," Mike Janesko of Brighton Heights said.

He'd stopped in Market Square for breakfast al fresco, to enjoy the unseasonably warm day before heading to work in McKees Rocks. While he was eating, he heard people talking about the lottery lady and so walked across the square to get his ticket.

Only a few people waved Ms. Szwarc off entirely. Those who showed just a smidgen of patience wound up smiling even after they scratched to find losing numbers.

"This gives me hope for the world," said Charlie Burkhart of Shaler, a construction worker on a break from putting the finishing touches on the new Gateway T station. …

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