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Hot Lotto winners give clerk who sold winning ticket money for college

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As a "thank you" for selling the winning Hot Lotto ticket Saturday, Minnesota's new millionaires gave the 18-year-old store clerk $15,000 to put toward college.

Joe and Rhonda Meath came forward Monday to claim their winning lottery ticket worth $11.7 million – the largest Hot Lotto jackpot in Minnesota history. Instead of living a life of luxury, the Bethel couple plans to help others. One of the first recipients was Sanita Rouse, the high school senior who sold Joe Meath the winning lottery ticket, FOX 9 reports.

"I was going to give her something anyway, but a little more to help her out – to persuade her to go to school," Joe Meath told the station.

Rouse was called into work for a meeting this week and immediately thought the worst. Assuming she was being fired, she was quite surprised to find out the Meaths were giving her money toward school.

"I couldn't be more grateful," Rouse told FOX 9. "It's crazy. It's overwhelming. It's a blessing, it really is."

The store owner will also get $10,000 from Hot Lotto for selling the ticket, a standard with lotteries, the Star Tribune says. Todd Steffeno, the owner of Corner Express, plans to use the money for store improvements, FOX 9 says.

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The couple has said winning the lottery won't change their life that much. Joe Meath, 53, has been retired from Xcel Energy for about three-and-a-half years. The avid lottery player isn't just a regular at the Corner Express, he also plows the store's parking lot.

Joe's wife, Rhonda, 51, is a server at the Lake Elmo Inn. She says she likes her job and has no plans to retire, according to lottery officials.

"Have to still mow the grass and get mail and put grandkids on the school bus," Rhonda Meath told ABC News.

Besides giving the store clerk a chunk of the winnings, the couple hasn't made many plans to spend the money. Rhonda Meath does plan on getting a new vehicle, while Joe Meath says he's happy with his truck that has about 280,000 miles on it, lottery officials said. However, Joe Meath is entertaining the idea of buying an RV, the Star Tribune says.

The couple also plans to set aside money for their four children and three grandchildren, as well as donate to charity, including the St. Paul K-9 Foundation, where Rhonda Meath volunteers.

The downside of winning the lottery is the amount of money the IRS takes in taxes from the winnings, Forbes notes. But for the Meaths, it’s like they hit the jackpot twice – the required taxes on the prize, totaling 32.25 percent or roughly $3.7 million, are being paid for by the lottery. This is the case for all Hot Lotto jackpots, unlike other big-name lottery games, according to the Hot Lotto website.

The winning numbers from Saturday night’s drawing were 1-2-3-25-30 and the Hot Ball was 19.

Lottery officials said the Meaths are the 11th Hot Lotto jackpot winners in Minnesota, and their prize is the largest. The last time a winning Hot Lotto ticket was sold in Minnesota was March 2012, the jackpot was worth $2.99 million. The record Hot Lotto jackpot is $19.97 million, according to USA Lottery.

Hot Lotto is played in 15 states and the District of Columbia. A Hot Lotto ticket is $1 and players choose five numbers from one to 47, and one Hot Ball number from one to 19. The jackpot starts at $1 million and grows each week until someone wins, according to the Minnesota State Lottery.

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