Cynthia Stafford has always had a generous streak. As a child, Stafford donated her allowance money to UNICEF to help other children around the world. She credits her mother for instilling in her the value of giving at a young age. When her brother was killed in a car crash, Stafford knew she needed to help his family -- she fought for custody of her brother's five children. At the time, she didn't have the means to care for the children, but she refused to let them be split up and placed in foster homes. She had faith she would find a way to care for the children and continue to help her favorite charities -- and she was right.
In 2007, Stafford won $112 million in the California lottery and took the $67 million payout, which she split with family members. Since her lottery win, Tonic.com reports Stafford has dedicated herself to giving back. She is still a loyal supporter of UNICEF, as well as Kids In The Spotlight, an organization that teaches foster children and at-risk youth how to tell stories on film, and The Natural Resources Defense Council.
Stafford also dedicated $1 million to the Geffen Playhouse, a Los Angeles theater, to support an arts program for inner city kids. For some of the teens that have been touched by the program, their experience at Geffen was their first time getting to see live theater.
Stafford's advice to others who want to give back?
"If you want to do good for others, start now," she says. "Don't wait for the perfect time, because it doesn't exist. Don't wait until you have a certain amount of money in the bank, because giving back is not all about money. You can always give of yourself, your time, your services, your energy, and your talents."