NEW YORK -- After winning half of a staggering $587 million Powerball payout in November (netted to $136.5 million after taxes) Mark and Cindy Hill of Dearborn, Missouri, had unlimited options.
They could have decided to travel the world, fill their garage with sports cars, or even buy their own island -- fantasies most people entertain when dreaming of a big win.
But the couple chose to stay put in Dearborn. Mark still meets friends daily for coffee at a local convenience store. And although he considered buying a Camaro after his win, Mark opted for a pickup.
In fact, what the Hills have elected to do with their windfall is far from island buying -- which brings us back to the sewage treatment plant.
It's one of many civic projects the Hills have decided to fund for their local community, and specifically Mark's hometown of Camden Point, Missouri -- a small enclave comprising fewer than 500 residents. They'll pay for a new fire station and a new ball field. They'll also donate $50,000 towards the sewage treatment plant.
The fire station will have direct access to highways, and the ball field will be set further away from one -- allowing the kids to play out of the range of traffic. As for the sewage treatment plant, that will enable residents to do away with personal septic tanks.
Walt Stubbs, Camden Point fire chief, says not only will the new location give the fire department better access to the community, but it will help integrate the local ambulance district with the fire station, improving emergency response times.
The Hills also donated a scholarship fund to nearby North Platte High School in Dearborn, where both graduated.
City officials estimated these works would have taken around 25 years to complete if the city had to rely on its existing tax base. Stubbs concurs with this figure -- and says the changes they're now able to make weren't even in their 5 or 10 year plans.
Stubbs, who went to high school with the Hills, says their decision to use their winnings from the largest Powerball jackpot in history, for the community comes as no surprise, if you know the couple. "Money changes a lot of people," Stubbs says. "They are just good people and are willing to help others."
Perhaps the Hills were heeding the words of the famously philanthropic Andrew Carnegie: "Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community."
Indeed at the press conference, Cindy Hill echoed Carnegie's sentiment; "For some reason (God) put it in our hands," she said, "I think to make sure it goes to the right things."