86-Year-Old Woman Uses Entire Stimulus Check to Start Stuffed Animal Zoo

An 86-year-old Pawtucket, Rhode Island woman found a unique way to spend her stimulus check. Instead of using the money to buy expensive electronics or groceries, Nancy Connor decided to buy dozens of giant stuffed animals to create a "zoo" in her front lawn. Like millions of Americans, Connor received an economic impact payment as part of the CARES Act signed into law in mid-March.

Connor told WJAR she wanted to brighten up her Pawtucket neighborhood during the coronavirus pandemic. "I went through World War II which was tough but it's nothing like what's happening now everything is so sad," she explained. The people she saw walking along her street were "very sad and I thought, well, what can I do? I'm handicapped. I can't go out there and do anything, but people love animals." So she hatched a brilliant idea. She used "every penny" of the stimulus check to buy stuffed animals on Amazon.

"The bigger they are, the more expensive they are," Connor pointed out. The "zoo" is a mix of lions, monkeys, penguins and other animals. Some are stuffed, although others are statues. A firefighter who lives on her street helped her organize the zoo. People walk by the zoo and stop to look at the animals every day.

"They come by, they walk and point and the kids smile it's worth all the effort I've put into it because everybody looks happy that comes by," Connor said. She remains a safe distance from them though, watching people through her window as she does crossword puzzles "to keep my mind active." She also waves to visitors and has more animals coming.

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Connor told the NBC affiliate she knows she could have used the stimulus money to help herself, but she thought bringing a smile to everyone's faces was a better way to spend it. She hopes to keep the zoo outside until October. If anyone is willing to donate more stuffed animals, Connor is willing to add them. "It's worth everything," Connor said of the zoo. "It makes me happy to see people happy again, even if it's only for a couple of minutes."

The stimulus check was part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. Individual American taxpayers who filed federal taxes for 2018 or 2019 with an unadjusted gross income of $75,000 or under were eligible for a payment of $1,200. The payments were doubled for joint filers. Dependents under 17 could receive $500 added to the head of the household's payment. It was a one-time payment. Congress has not agreed on a second payment, although there are several proposals in Washington.