Wasilla man lottery winner

HIRSCH: Ticket bought at state fair forgotten -- until phone call.

November 13, 2009 

WASILLA -- Jeff Hirsch just got an unexpected Christmas bonus.

Hirsch, a 50-year-old hunting guide from Wasilla, learned Wednesday night that he was the winner of the $250,000 Lucky Times Veterans Day lottery.

"I've never been that lucky," he said.

Hirsch said he's not much for games of chance, although he'll buy a raffle ticket to help an organization he likes, which is why he bought the Veterans Day ticket. He only bought one ticket, back during the Alaska State Fair. He said he tucked it in his wallet and forgot about it until he got the phone call Wednesday.

The check is already in the bank, he said -- $175,000 after taxes were taken out. Hirsch said he plans to use it to pay bills and put a down payment on a new house. The rest, he said, will be tucked away for a rainy day.

Hirsch said he'd been planning to buy a larger house to accommodate his growing bunch of belongings -- the unexpected win "sure makes things easier."

Abe Spicola, who operates Lucky Times Lotto, said the drawing was held at 7 p.m. on Veterans Day at the Lucky Times store on Spenard Road and Wisconsin Street in Anchorage.

It's Lucky Times' second lotto; the first was a $500,000 payout in which the extra proceeds went to benefit Standing Together Against Rape, or STAR.

That lottery was in the news for several months last year after it was reported that the winning ticket holder, Anchorage resident Alec Ahsoak, was a convicted sex offender. Shortly after that information came out, Ahsoak was assaulted by 20-year-old Los Angeles man Brandon Hughes in downtown Anchorage. Hughes was later convicted of second-degree assault and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Hirsch said there shouldn't be drama this time around -- he has a clean record. He even offered to talk about his winnings in part to help the lottery move on from last year's excitement.

"I think what they do is very fine -- it helps the state of Alaska and it helps its people," Hirsch said.

Spicola said this lottery's extra proceeds will go to Veterans Aviation Outreach, a Wasilla-based group that assists veterans in rural Alaska, often in communities without road access. They do everything from helping veterans file necessary paperwork to building wheelchair ramps and fixing plumbing.

Mo Bailey, founder of Veterans Aviation Outreach, said the $5,000 will come in handy. The group operates with a yearly budget of about $150,000, most from national veteran organizations like Vietnam Veterans of America, but it relies heavily on smaller local donations like a $1,000 yearly grant from BP and community spaghetti feeds.

"We're not the government and we don't have a lot of money. We're really frugal in how we spend it -- we do whatever is practical," Bailey said.

Lucky Times is already selling tickets for its next lottery -- another $500,000 payout lottery to benefit STAR. Spicola said his plan is to draw the winning ticket on New Year's Eve.

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