Myrtle Beach area entities can only dream of what lottery jackpot would mean

There will be no going back for the lucky ticket holder, or group of ticket holders, whose number is called Wednesday in the largest Powerball® jackpot in the game’s history.

The drawing will be held at 10:59 p.m. for the $500 million prize, which was adjusted upward on Tuesday as more people got into the game. The winner will be able to opt for a cash payout of $327 million, which would make a happy holiday for any of the players.

Many people – even those who don’t play – say winning the lottery would mean quitting their jobs, buying a new home and helping out family and friends, but such a large sum also would mean a lot to many entities along the Grand Strand, should they be fortunate enough to have such a large amound land in their laps.

Here are some of the big dreams leaders of area agencies say they would pursue if fortune ever smiled on them in such a big way.

Nanci Conley, executive director for the Coastal S.C. Chapter of the American Red Cross, said it’s overwhelming just to contemplate ever having such a large gift for her agency, but her first steps would be to talk with Red Cross officials in the region and nationally on how to strategically invest the funds.

“We would want to invest in the future and make it longstanding so the Red Cross is secure,” Conley said. “We want to make sure the Red Cross continues to be here in the Grand Strand.”

Conley said the organization has to raise more than $600,000 for this year’s revenue projection, and Red Cross funds go toward disaster services, military services, training for volunteers – everything down to fuel for vehicles. She said there would be no large purchases such as a new facility – the one they have is fine – and everything would go toward keeping the money secure to fund the Red Cross down the road and strengthening the program throughout the region.

“We’ve been fortunate so far, but Hurricane Sandy could’ve been us,” Conley said. “We’re always playing the ‘what if’ game and have to think more long term. You just don’t know when it’s going to be us, and we must prepare and be ready to respond.”

Will Garland, board chairman for Horry County Schools, echoed the desire to save the money should it find its way to the school district.

“My first reaction would be to not spend it but endow it so you’ve got income forever,” he said.

Garland said if the money earned only 3 percent, there would be at least $7.5 million or $8 million to spend without ever having to touch the principal. He said income from the endowment could be used every year for special programs, which could include helping children in poverty, those who are at-risk, gifted and talented students and establishing a college scholarship program.

“And you might be able to earn more than 3 percent,” Garland said.

Marilyn Fore, senior vice president for academic affairs at Horry Georgetown Technical College, said everybody knows she never has enough money to do everything she wants to do at the college, and she was quick to list some priorities when presented with the idea of some extra millions to work with.

“I would first complete the new culinary building, I’d get every student an iPad, give every student a scholarship and design some new programs,” said Fore, who said she would one day like to offer a veterinary technology program.

“Our product is education, so it takes a lot of resources to pull that together and hiring a lot of faculty and staff to make these dreams come true,” she said, “but we would definitely help the economy.”

Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said any jackpot coming to the city would be quite a gift, and city officials would need to figure out how to use it to improve the quality of life in Myrtle Beach and to attract tourism.

“There’s no question it would really come in handy,” Rhodes said. “I would like to be able to expand the convention center to have more flat space – that would take a nice chunk.”

Rhodes said he’s been told an expansion would cost around $80 million, and he would want to construct some soccer fields for sports tourism because there has been a demand for the sport. He said he also would look at expanding the boardwalk, which would cost around $20 million, and would even look at adding a performing arts center as part of the convention center expansion.

That is music to the ears of Diane DeVaughn Stokes, chairwoman of the Myrtle Beach Cultural Arts Advisory Committee, who said, “A performing arts center is number one on my list.”

She said efforts have been made for many years to build a venue that could attract entertainment to the Grand Strand and also be home to area arts groups. She said more and more people outside of the area are asking about cultural activities here, and more arts and entertainment would only add to the quality of life in the community.

A new home for the Horry County Literacy Council is another building project that could be made possible with an infusion of jackpot cash. The council currently occupies one room in the Myrtle Beach Family Learning Center, and a home of its own would allow the council to expand and handle many more clients, said Pat Bush, executive director.

Bush is one of two part-time people who staff the council along with volunteers who tutor adults and children who have a variety of learning disabilities such as dyslexia. She said they are grateful for the space they have, but a place of their own would give them more room, and the money would allow them to actually hire the staff needed to train as tutors.

“We have such a waiting list now of folks who need tutors, and we could just handle so many more clients,” Bush said. “I think we could solve a big part of the literacy problem if we had that kind of money to put toward just our training methods that we already know work.”

Another area organization dependent on volunteers is Help 4 Kids, which includes Backpack Buddies, and they supply the needs for more than 2,000 schoolchildren, from food and clothing to school supplies and toys.

Founder Barb Mains said her group is all volunteer and would stay all volunteer, even if the jackpot comes her way, and none of it would be used for overhead.

“All my kids would go to college, we’d help them at home – so many need plumbing and electric – and they’d never have to be ashamed again,” Mains said. “Oh, but we could change the lives of so many children.”

Mains said people have told her that if they ever win the lottery, they will give her half. She said she’s always been glad to wait for that to happen, but recently, she’s contemplated trying for the money on her own.

“I’ve never bought a lottery ticket, but I think I’ll buy one,” Mains said. “I might buy five. If I win, wouldn’t it be wonderful!”