Workers team to win lottery prize

Teamwork paid off for the employees of a Hickory food distributor.

A group of 10 employees at Merchants Distributors Inc. won $250,000 in a North Carolina lottery drawing on Friday.

The group calls itself "The MDI 10," and each team member contributes $1 a week to help the group play 10 sets of numbers in Friday lottery drawings.

Gary Baker, a produce and floral buyer for the company, also buys tickets for the group.

Each Friday on his lunch break, he gets a haircut and buys the Mega Millions tickets for that night’s draw.

The morning after the Friday, Feb. 17 drawing, Scott Campbell, a produce inspector, checked the numbers as he started his 5 a.m. shift.

“I couldn’t even speak,” Campbell said, after realizing they had matched all five white balls. “I didn’t think anybody would believe me.”

He was right.

“I got a text message at 5:47 (a.m.) saying that we won $250,000 in the lottery,” Baker said. He assumed his coworkers weren’t serious so he went back to sleep. He started believing the group won when he saw a photo of the winning ticket by text message.

Baker, who is from Hickory, and Campbell, who is from Lincolnton, went to the lottery headquarters in Raleigh to claim the prize for the group.

The other members of the group include Janice Willard, of Maiden; Douglas Dockery and Richard Townsend, of Hickory; Michael Burris and Gerald Davis, of Taylorsville; Robin Alexander and Terry Smith, of Lenoir; Jerry Helton, of Granite Falls.

After state and federal taxes were withheld, each claimant’s $25,000 share was worth $17,000.

Campbell said that he and at least one other team member plan to use their winnings to pay for home improvements. Baker said that winning the lottery would help him and his wife pay for a vacation they had already planned. He had some advice for other teams who play the lottery together.

“It pays off just to be persistent and stay in it,” he said.

Through June 30 of last year, Catawba County education programs received more than $27.8 million in lottery funds. By law, those funds pay for teachers’ salaries in grades K-3, school construction projects, need-based college scholarships, and prekindergarten programs for at-risk 4-year-olds. To date, the N.C. Education Lottery has raised more than $2.2 billion for the initiatives statewide.