Lottery winner gives $680,000 to Shallotte church

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SHALLOTTE, NC (WWAY) – A Brunswick County lottery winner gave more than half a million dollars to her church Friday, according to a news release.

Marie Holmes won North Carolina’s biggest lottery jackpot in February of $188 million. Holmes said the first thing she promised was to tithe or give a tenth of her winnings to charity.

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Recently, she formed the Marie Holmes Foundation with an initial investment of $9.7 million for the benefit of charitable organizations large and small. On Friday, Holmes sent a personal check for $680,000 to her home church, Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Shallotte.

“Praise Jesus,” Reverend Dr. Vaughn Cherry said. “This is such a blessing for us.”

Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church is a 130-year-old church located in Brunswick County about halfway between Shallotte and Ocean Isle. The predominantly African American church, with about 400 members and about 135 regular attendees, has been the spiritual home of the Holmes family for decades.

“Five generations of our family attend that church right now,” Carmel Wheaton, executive director of the foundation and one of Marie Holmes’ aunts, said.

Over the years, the church has been struggling financially. Church leaders said they reached out to Marie’s family, shoring up her mother during a struggle with heart disease and assisting another close family member with her mortgage payment during a difficult spell.

Marie Holmes said it was these kindnesses and her family’s long history with the church, which prompted her to make the $680,000 donation. Most of the donation will pay for long-overdue repairs and renovations to the church and its equipment. Holmes placed a restriction on her gift that $150,000 be reserved for helping single mothers, the elderly and others who are in dire need of help.

“This was an easy decision for Marie,” Wheaton said.  “People may have doubted that Marie would adhere to her promise about tithing. Marie has a very good legal and financial team advising her to be careful with the winnings but she has also been very adamant about the tithing. She said, ‘This is my money, I want it set aside.’ She is not looking for anything in return.”