Sharon A. Gilwee, a Baltimore County school administrator, was helping the homeless by selling raffle tickets and buying $100 worth for herself and her husband, Robert.
Yesterday, the couple won the grand prize and found themselves owners of a new $200,000 house in Odenton -- which they really didn't need, and had never seen. They didn't even attend the drawing.
"There is not much I can tell you," Mr. Gilwee, a tax accountant, said later. "I'm just shocked. If I had any idea [what to do], I wouldn't mind sharing it with you. I just have no idea at all. I don't know how to react."
Hundreds of people gathered with tickets in hand in front of the two-story, three-bedroom prize in the Seven Oaks development near Fort Meade, to watch the drawing and take part in festivities and other raffles to raise money for the cause, the non-profit Action for the Homeless.
Many already owned a home. Some said they would sell the house if they won; others said they would move right in. All appeared to like the idea of the raffle to help the homeless.
The Gilwees, who bought 10 of an estimated 29,000 chances on HTC the house that were sold for $10 each, were not even there. The president of Action for the Homeless and Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, called the couple with the good news and had to leave their message on an answering machine at the Gilwee home in Phoenix.
Organizers said the nearly $300,000 raised through the "House with a Heart" raffle will help programs for the homeless throughout Maryland.
"It is a drop in the bucket in terms of what we need," said Sandy Teplitzky, a Baltimore lawyer and president of Action for the Homeless. "But every drop helps. We want to encourage the people here to get involved in the homelessness issue."
Mr. Teplitzky said the proceeds will go toward emergency shelters, public education and food banks.
"It's a human tragedy," Mr. Teplitzky told the crowd waiting for the drawing. "Every number has a face and every number has a name. We have to do something to help these people. Someone will win this house and the homeless of Maryland will benefit."
"This will make a difference for the shelters," said Pat Gallagher, who works with homeless children in Baltimore. She bought three raffle tickets, with hopes of moving in -- and taking in some foster children there.
Ms. Gallagher told the crowd that the faces of homeless people has changed. "Homeless people could be standing among you right now and you wouldn't recognize them."
The raffle idea came from Gov. William Donald Schaefer and his friend, lumber company owner Louis J. Grasmick. The Ryland Group, one of the area's largest home builders, donated the house while the Halle Cos., developer of the 4,700-unit Seven Oaks, provided the lot at the corner of Bragg Boulevard and Brigade Way.
Many other companies provided landscaping, interior decorating, appliances and advertising for the raffle.
Mrs. Gilwee, assistant principal of Sparks Elementary, said she got involved in the effort after Mr. Grasmick's wife -- state school superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick -- passed along raffle tickets for school administrators to sell.
"It's neat how many people from all different organizations pitched in," Mrs. Gilwee said.