In November, Bonnie Hess of Largo was laid off as a computer trainer with a national title company.
"Last June, the company laid off 70 percent of the work force nationwide, and I survived that," Hess said. "But then my position was cut, too."
Hess couldn't have imagined that a daytime television program was about to change her luck.
While watching television, Hess decided to enter Kimberly-Clark's Room-A-Day Giveaway on ABC's The View.
And she won.
"I never even thought I would possibly win. I figured there were hundreds of thousands of entries," Hess said. "I'm lucky in life, but I don't usually win things. We've played the lottery for years but never won."
Kimberly-Clark, known for products such as Kleenex, Cottonelle and Huggies, joined with celebrity designer Thom Filicia (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) to offer 16 prizes billed as $25,000 room makeovers. New prize winners were announced daily. Hess was winner No. 12.
The company decided to continue the $400,000 giveaway despite the economic downturn when many businesses have cut back on contests, said Stephanie Miller, a representative for Ketchum, the public relations firm for Kimberly-Clark.
Hess said her chances of winning were increased because she received an e-mail reminder to submit an entry each day.
"I rarely enter contests. It was more of a whim," Hess said. "I've been on the computer job hunting every day anyway. It didn't cost postage and was easy."
It couldn't have come at a better time.
Hess' husband, John, is semi-retired and Bonnie Hess carried the health insurance benefits for the family. The Kimberly-Clark representative assured Hess she can use the money in whatever way she wishes. Continuing her job search, she is relieved to now have breathing space.
Hess reports that friends and family are happy to know someone who has won a large contest.
"Everybody thinks there are no winners," she said. "The next question invariably is 'What are you going to do with the money?'"
Although she dreams of replacing the carpet in her two-bedroom condo and she wants an all-in-one printer-scanner to preserve family photos, until she finds a new job, Bonnie Hess has a succinct answer.
"Live on it!"