Friday, January 30, 2015

She won't miss what she never had

About 17,000 people live in Strabane, Northern Ireland, on the east bank of the River Foyle. Not long ago, Strabane had the highest unemployment rate in the industrial world, and as recently as 2005, it was voted the 8th worst place to live in the United Kingdom. If that's not bad enough, during the Troubles (early '70s through '90s) it was the most bombed town in Northern Ireland. But that's all changing now, thanks to local resident Margaret Loughrey, shown here.

In December, 2013, on her way home from the Job Center, Margaret bought a Euromillions lottery ticket and hit the jackpot, winning the equivalent of about 40 million dollars. She was living on public benefits of about $75/week when she heard the good news. At last she could escape from her rundown hometown and live the life of luxury. But she didn't. Instead, she's been giving her winnings to neighbors in need.

"I spent half my adult life unemployed, and the other half earning minimum wage. I know what it's like to have nothing. That's why I'm giving it away," she said, adding "I can't miss what I never had. I always said if I ever won, I'd keep one million and give the rest to the town."

So far she's handed out half her fortune. Today she's a director of nine new local companies set up since May. She also paid $1.5 million for attractive town property and plans to convert it into a major leisure and tourism site, creating scores of permanent, full-time job opportunities.

Margaret explains why. "There is so much talent here in the Strabane area. People just need to be given a chance. Everyone has the right to work for a living, to support their families, to buy their own home, to run their own business. People just need to be given opportunities."

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