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September 1, 2016

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September, 2016 | Winners Stories | Northern California

Holy Millionaire! Weekly Watering of Church Flowers Pays Off for Bay Area Grandfather

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SACRAMENTO – When Daniel Mendez and his wife started attending Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church in San Jose last year, they noticed there were no flowers planted around the statue of the Virgin Mary.

So his wife planted some flowers, and he’s been watering them “about every four or five days” ever since. He prays and then, as part of what has become his routine, he goes out to “buy my lottery tickets.”

But the 86-year-old grandfather is quick to clarify: “I don’t ask the Virgin to pay me with [lottery] money. I ask that she pays me with taking care of my grandkids,” Mendez explained with a big laugh. “That’s more valuable than money to me – but I really do need a new roof on my house!” he added, still chuckling.

A new roof will soon be on its way! One of the two Set for Life Scratchers® tickets that Mendez purchased after watering the church flowers turned out to be a top prize winner – $4,000 per month for 25 years, which comes out to a grand total of $1.2 million! The Bay Area resident has decided instead to take the lump sum amount of $696,000 (before federal taxes).

That will still be more than enough to put a new roof on the home Mendez says he and his wife have been living in since 1963. “I could be responsible for the drought,” Mendez joked with another laugh. “I’ve needed a roof for a few years now, and sometimes [when the weather is threatening] I say ‘don’t rain today!’”

Mendez admits it’s all a little overwhelming still, considering he unexpectedly won all of this money after just running over to church to water some flowers – and then spending a few dollars ($4 to be exact) on a couple of Scratchers games like he always does. “I really wasn’t sure I had won. In fact, I put [the winning ticket] in a zip lock so in the morning I knew it was real – that I didn’t dream it!”

Mendez says he definitely plans on continuing his routine of watering the church flowers every week and then buying his Scratchers tickets. Also, now that he’s won some prize money, he has a new plan for his church: “I might do some landscaping!”

The retail location where Mendez purchased his lucky ticket wins as well! The CVS Pharmacy located at 1685 Tully Road in San Jose will be receiving a $6,000 bonus just for selling the winning ticket.

Unfortunately, Mendez has declined any potential requests for media interviews or to take a winner photo. No additional information about him will be released.

The Set for Life Scratchers family is part of the Lottery’s continued effort to give out more prizes, create more winners and earn more money for education. For more information on the game and how to play, click here.

Keep in mind, the winning doesn’t stop there! Like all Lottery Scratchers, the Set for Life family of games comes with a second chance to win another great prize of up to $25,000 during our weekly draw. Just subscribe to our 2nd Chance Program and submit any non-winning Set for Life Scratchers ticket code for a chance to win.


The California Lottery is a $6 billion enterprise based in Sacramento. It is one of the few state agencies that is a revenue generator, not accepting taxpayer dollars from the State’s General Fund. Its mission is to provide supplemental funding to California schools while simultaneously supporting local communities. In FY 2015-16, the Lottery created 98 new millionaires. Ninety-five cents of every dollar spent by our players goes back to local communities in the form of contributions to public schools and colleges, prizes and retail compensation. The California Lottery urges its customers to play responsibly and within their budgets. If you feel you have a gambling problem, or know someone who does, you can get help at 1-800-GAMBLER.

See More Press Releases: September, 2016 | Winners Stories | Northern California