This Quebec Woman Won the Lottery—And Used the Winnings to Help Those in Need

The windfall allowed Rachel Lapierre to turn her passion project into a registered charity.

On a late January evening in 2008, Rachel Lapierre bought a $4 scratch ticket while picking up groceries. After an exhausting day cutting sugar maples in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec, she needed something to lift her spirits. Her sugarshack hobby was meant to be fun, but the 46-year-old mother of four was wearing herself thin as a nearly full-time emergency-room nurse and part-time volunteer aid-worker.

For years, Lapierre had done humanitarian work overseas for organizations such as the France-based Médecins du Monde, and she longed to be able to one day quit her nursing job and focus on the volunteer work she found most fulfilling. She vowed to herself that if she ever won the lottery, that’s what she would do.

Lapierre went home and scratched her ticket, revealing three sunny faces. Not sure what they meant, she took it to a corner store, where the ticket-checking machine went berserk but didn’t reveal the prize. She tucked the ticket in her bra for safekeeping. The next day, the Loto-Quebec office informed her that she had won a lump sum of $675,000 or $1,000 a week for life. She chose the latter. “I know myself,” she says. “The lump sum would have melted like snow in the sun.”

Staying true to her word, Lapierre quit her nursing job and dedicated her life to helping others through her passion project, Le Book Humanitaire, which has since become a registered charity.

Le Book, as Lapierre, now 62, affectionately calls it, began as a simple list of good deeds she jotted down in a black-and-white wire-coiled notebook. She had been using it to keep track of what she had done to help those living in the small communities around her. To her, the deeds were just small acts of kindness—buying clothes for a family of newly arrived immigrants, delivering a meal to an isolated senior or giving medical attention to someone living on the streets—that anyone else might have done. But word started spreading, her phone began ringing and a Facebook page she created for the project became an efficient way to field requests from those in need and those who wanted to help.

Sixteen years later, Le Book Humanitaire now has a team of 80 volunteers. The non-profit provides local emergency support, homeless and medical outreach, food delivery for seniors and a community fridge. Its kitchen volunteers make about 500 meals a day, with all food donated from local restaurants, hospitals and schools.

The book itself? It has since been replaced by dozens more, representing millions of deeds. In 2022 alone, the organization carried out nearly 450,000 acts of service.

“Le Book has had an immense impact on me and on many vulnerable people,” says Martyne, 52. The former special-education technician, who asked that only her first name be used, suffers from long Covid and has been unable to work since getting sick in March 2020.

She recently saved enough to move out of a rooming house and into an apartment with a roommate, but she can’t afford to furnish it. Le Book provided a comfortable recliner so she could function without spending her days in bed. And because debilitating fatigue also makes it impossible for her to cook for herself, Martyne is now on Le Book’s food delivery route. “With courtesy and no judgment, Le Book helps us get what we need,” she says.

“When you do a good deed, it has a butterfly effect,” says Lapierre. “One good deed can affect 10 people. So if we all do a good deed? That can save the world.”

Check out more good news stories that will restore your faith in humanity.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada