Featured is Laurie Finkelstein Reader with her winning team. (Image courtesy of Laurie Finkelstein Reader)
The scenario happened like a perfectly-scripted movie: a Keller Williams team based in Plantation, Fla. decides to play their odds at the lottery. For just $20 each, the 11 co-workers could have the chance to win a $338 million Powerball jackpot. Through a series of group text messages and e-mails, the team organized their efforts and collected $240—or 120 tickets—for the March 22nd Powerball. Everyone at Keller Williams Partner Realty participated, except for Jennifer Maldonado, the newest member of the team. “I just started work,” the administrative assistant told team leader Laurie Finkelstein Reader. “I think I can spend $20 on something else.”
Finkelstein Reader warned Maldonado about the consequences of her choice. “Jen, if you don’t pay we’re going to win,” she said, staring her co-worker straight in the eyes. “Don’t worry,” Jen answered with a slight laugh. “I’ll take the fall for you.” (Yes, we all know where this one is going…)
Cut to Saturday when the Powerball numbers were announced. Finkelstein Reader got back on the group text that night—her husband was too tired to stay up for the results—and inquired about whether or not anyone had checked the winning numbers. “We only got five out of six,” one co-worker replied with the nonchalance of someone unaware that the team had just won $1 million.
They celebrated until dawn—even Finkelstein Reader’s husband jumped out of bed screaming, “I’m not tired anymore!”—and chatted for hours about their good fortune, which would amount to $83,333.33 per person, after taxes. “We all got on the phone and it was just ten of us completely freaking out,” Finkelstein Reader says.
But festivities quickly came to a halt the next morning when the team realized that Maldonado hadn’t participated in the pool. Maldonado, who had been carefully monitoring her spending, was happy for the team but visibly shaken by the news.
“The next thing I did was what would come naturally to anyone on my team: I asked everyone what they thought about including Jen in the earnings,” Finkelstein Reader says. “Of course, they were all on board.”
After receiving unanimous consent, Finkelstein Reader handed over what she describes as “a fat stack of cash” to Maldonado, who was brought to tears by the thoughtful gesture.
And that may have been the end of this story, if not for one little Facebook post about the altruistic act that went viral faster than you can say, “cats singing on YouTube.” Within hours, word spread far and wide about the jackpot-winning team and their decision to include the ill-fated admin. Soon national news programs like Dateline, Inside Edition, The Today Show, and more all clamored for a chance to cover the philanthropic feat.
Even Hollywood has been calling, though the team isn’t willing to answer quite yet, that is unless the right offer comes along. “I would go to California if Ellen asked,” Finkelstein Reader admits. “I tell everybody I just want to dance with her!”
Fame and foxtrots aside, Finkelstein Reader says the money has only cemented the already cooperative atmosphere synonymous with a real estate team. “Before this happened, we were every bit the way you see us now,” she says. “The only thing different is that we won a million dollars.”