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Everybody wins

Raffling for fun — and charity

Round and round the wheel goes, and where it stops nobody knows — not even Michele Spooner of Harrington Park, who set the virtual wheel in motion and who is streaming it on her cell phone to the 250 members of the Giving Games group on Facebook.

In the end, the spin goes to Dafna, who gets the banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan.

Welcome to Ms. Spooner’s way of coping with quarantine.

“I was indefinitely unemployed and trying to find things to do,” Ms. Spooner said.

She had thought, at first, that she could volunteer with a charity, she said. But “I called a lot and they said they were all full up. I guess everyone was looking for something to do.”

Then her niece told her about a friend who was running an online raffle for teachers and Ms. Spooner hatched her plan to help charities and small businesses and while away the time.

“I purchase stuff from small businesses. I raffle them. And then the additional funds go to charities,” she said.

Since she began in July, she’s held 20 or so raffles and given away “a couple hundred dollars” to various charities.

Here’s how the raffle works. Ms. Spooner lists the item that she’s ordering, the charity where the proceeds go, the number of slots available, and how much it costs to fill a slot. Players put their name in the Facebook comment, and then send the fee to Ms. Spooner via the Venmo payment app. When the slots fill up, she fires up the website, wheelsofnames.com, fills in the name, and then takes out her phone and livestreams the animated wheel as it randomly selects the winner.

Then she mails the prize to the winner, who will post about receiving it a few days later, and will send the money to the charity.

“It keeps me busy,” Ms. Spooner said. “It keeps me creative.”

She chooses the charities to align with the product being offered.

For the prizes, “I do mostly local businesses. Ever now and then I’ll do something out of town. I want to keep it to the small business. I don’t want to do the Home Depots and Walmarts.

“People will contact me and say, can you help this restaurant, or my small business? Every now and then someone will donate something to me. A friend donated artwork,” she said.

The charities she has highlighted and donated to include Meals on Wheels, Friendship Circle of Central New Jersey, Family Promise of Bergen County, My Sisters Place, and Lucky Paws Animal Assistance. The latter got the funds raised by a raffle for a box of dog toys and snacks.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Ms. Spooner said. “The businesses are winning. Someone is getting a prize and they are winning. The charity is winning. I’m doing something good and fund and creative and it makes people happy. I’ve met all these people through it who have inboxed me and asked me questions and given me suggestions.

“It’s growing into a really lovely and supportive community and it’s very nice.”

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