AUGUSTA — A central Maine-based organization that runs a retreat for wounded veterans is receiving a half-million dollars from the winner of a recent Powerball jackpot.

The $500,000 donation is a big deal for the nonprofit central Maine-based Travis Mills Foundation, which in 2016 reported $1.55 million in annual revenue, according to documents the tax-exempt organization filed at the time.

Lerynne West, 51, of Dexter, Iowa, was one of two winners of the third-largest Powerball jackpot of $687.9 million last month.

Now shot into the limelight, West appeared on the TV show “Ellen” this week to discuss events leading up to her big win. At the end of the interview, West made an announcement that she was donating $500,000 to the Mills foundation.

West said the foundation had a special place in her heart before making the donation.

“My dad was a Vietnam vet,” West told host Ellen DeGeneres. “I come from a long line of people who have served in the military.

“I think it’s very important to see that we never forget the sacrifices that our soldiers and families make to our country,” she added

Founder Travis Mills was returning from an event in Atlanta when he began receiving phone calls from staff members. He recalled his reaction during a Facebook live video posted Wednesday night.

“I thought, ‘Oh crap, someone died,'” he said. “Nope, someone didn’t die.”

“This lovely, amazing lady in Iowa who won the jackpot on the Powerball decided to go on ‘Ellen’ today, not telling any of us, and she donated, live on ‘Ellen,’ $500,000 to the Travis Mills Foundation,” he added.

The foundation aims to support veterans and their families by offering all-inclusive visits to a Belgrade Lakes retreat. Last year, the foundation hosted 84 veterans and their families at the retreat.

“That money goes a long way. We’re going to be able to help out so many families,” Mills said. “And to that lovely young lady with three beautiful children … we want to say thank you.”

Foundation Executive Director Brandy Cain said the foundation budgets $1,000 per person for attendance to the retreat. She said since July 2017, 200 veteran families from 34 states have attended the retreat. The foundation issued a news release Thursday afternoon thanking West for the donation, saying it “will be a catalyst for new projects.”

The other winner of the jackpot is from New York City. West opted to take a lump sum of $198.1 million instead of a 29-year annuity worth $343.9 million.

Attempts to reach West were not immediately successful.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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