Donald Birch said Tuesday he aims to keep his job as a maintenance worker at the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Clifton Park, even though he picked up a winning New York State Lottery ticket on his way to work last month.
Birch was presented with an oversized $1 million check on Tuesday, his 53rd birthday. Handing it over was the Lottery’s Yolanda Vega, at the Stewart’s shop on Vosburgh Road, near Route 146, where Birch bought the ticket for $20. But the check said on its face that it was “non-negotiable for promotional use only,” and what he will actually get is 20 annual payments of $50,000 — or $34,075 after taxes.
Birch is from the town of Stillwater, and according to the Lottery is the fourth Stillwater resident to claim a million-dollar prize since October 2007, when Debra Zuzick was the Win for Life game winner. Marvin and Joyce Mondoux won the Merry Money prize in January, and Theresa Dibble won the Cashtastic prize in July.
Birch won the $1 million prize in the $500,000,000 Extravaganza instant scratch-off game that also has $5 million prizes and $2 million prizes in addition to the $1 million prizes.
Lottery spokesman John Charlson said later he didn’t know what the odds are of so many winners coming from one small town, but that such Lottery hot spots do crop up sometimes. “That’s a pretty good lucky streak, we think,” he said.
Birch said he would invest the money, and eventually buy a house. He currently lives with his sister, who confirmed he had a winner when he showed her the ticket.
“I got home and scratched the ticket and didn’t really know I was a winner,” Birch said in a statement put out by the Lottery. “I had my sister take a look at it and she knew immediately. She screamed so loud, I think the neighbors heard her.”
He bought the ticket Aug. 16, and turned it in at Lottery headquarters in Schenectady two days later. He has worked at Cracker Barrel for a little over a year.
At the Stewart’s shop, Vega introduced herself by dragging out the pronunciation of her first name, in her trademark TV style. She kept her hand on the shoulder of Birch, who was wearing a black sports shirt with a pen in the pocket, a black cap with dark glasses on top, and a smile.
Paul Brisbin, manager of the Stewart’s store, said it was built about two years ago. It is across the street from the Sheldon Hills housing development, southwest of Mechanicville.
Birch had let him know previously about the winning ticket, Brisbin said. “He did thank me, and that’s enough,” the store manager said.
In honor of the occasion, Stewart’s renamed a brand of its ice cream Cookies ’N Dream (with “Dream” replacing “Cream” in the title). Tom Mailey, a Stewart’s spokesman, showed how a new label with the new word was affixed to the ice cream boxes.
Birch tasted the ice cream and pronounced it “all right.” Vega said she only wanted a little, because she’s dieting, but Brisbin told her it is reduced-calorie, light ice cream.
“Oh, this is good,” declared Vega. “I know we’re supposed to talk some more, but ...”
A Stewart’s in Waterford sold a winning Lottery ticket in July, said Lottery spokeswoman, Jina Matthews.