Mary and Terry Bisson won a brand-new $25,000 car in Tops Markets' Monopoly sweepstakes earlier this month.
They gave it away immediately.
"We didn't need a car. We have a car. We like our car," Mary Bisson said.
You know who did need a free car, they decided? Silver Light, assistant director at the Western New York Peace Center, a social justice organization on Delaware Avenue, where Mary has volunteered since the 1980s.
The decision took all of three minutes.
Light does important work, Bisson said, and using public transportation makes it harder for her to accomplish that work.
"This isn't someone who goes to work and goes home," Bisson said. "Her job requires her to be all over Buffalo. Doing that on the bus was very hard for her."
When she opened the game piece at the Tops store in the University Plaza, she wasn't sure if the words "You've won a car" really meant that she had won a car.
"There were no exclamation points or anything, no color," Bisson said. "It was like 'You’ve won 30 cents off frozen waffles.' "
They got confirmation of its authenticity when they took it back to the store and the clerk at the service desk threw her hands up and started shouting.
"It was like, 'I guess we can start celebrating now,' " Light said.
As happy as the Bissons are with their 2015 Honda Fit, it turns out Tops doesn't actually give the winner a car. It gives them a check for $25,000 which they can use for a car or whatever they wish. (Tops also took out 25 percent for tax as a courtesy so Light doesn't have to deal with the IRS, she said.)
That didn't change the Bissons' minds.
"I told them there are so many possibilities for how they could use this gift," Light said. I was like, 'Are you sure?" And they’re like, 'If you want it we're giving it to you.' "
The fact that the Bissons, both professors, gave the prize away doesn't surprise people at the Peace Center who know them and their philosophy toward life.
"You don’t really need everything that comes your way," Mary Bisson said. "You can think about alternatives to over-consumption. You can share what you have with people."
How will Light pay her blessing forward? Well, for starters, she'll reduce her carbon emissions by buying an electric car, she said. Once the check from Tops clears, she plans to test drive a Nissan Leaf, maybe a Kia Niro.
"It's good for the earth, which is good for everyone," Light said.
Light wants to help in another way, too: by reminding Tops shoppers to open their Monopoly tickets.
The grocery chain has done away with Monopoly boards this year, which means players can simply rip their game pieces open to see if they've won a prize.
"I always tell people, 'Please open your ticket. You could win a car!' " she said.
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