The Smith family – 70-year-old Pearlie Smith and her 7 adult children – banded together to buy a ticket for the lucky ticket for $3 on May 3 at a 7-11 in Trenton, New Jersey. When the winning numbers were called on May 7, theirs was the only ticket sold across the country that matched the five winning numbers plus the Powerball.
“Our mother bought the ticket for us we pooled all our money together and left it in her hands,” Valerie Arthur, one of Pearl’s daughters, said at a press conference Friday.
Arthur, who retired last year after working as a prison administrator for 27 years, said she couldn’t believe it when her sister called to tell her the family had won.
“I said, ‘Stop April fooling me!’ And she said, ‘It’s May!’ She said it’s true we won the Powerball and I haven’t slept since then.” Arthur recalled with a laugh.
Pearlier picked out the winning numbers: 5-25-26-44-66 and the Powerball number, 9. She said the numbers came to her via “divine intervention.”
“We had a divine intervention give us the numbers, that’s the only way you could explain it,” Arthur said.
Because the ticket was purchased as a cash payout, the family will take their winnings in a lump sum of $248 million, or about $204,480,000 after taxes.
— NJ.com (@njdotcom) May 13, 2016
“Usually when you go and play the lottery and they ask you cash or annuity,” Arthur explained. “Your age factor comes in and you think, ‘Am I going to wait around 20 years for the cash?’ If I was 20 maybe but I’m well past 20.”
The Smith family said they planned to split the lump sum evenly and that their biggest priorities were paying off student loans and mortgages. The six siblings who are still working said they went to work the day after they learned they had won, adding that they had no immediate plans to quit their jobs.
When asked about lavish trips or major purchases, the family said that after buying cars for their kids and grandkids, they wanted to use the money to help their communities.
“This was an affirmation from God because we each have dreams we want to fulfill in this life for what we want to do for our communities,” Arthur said.
Pearlie’s daughter Catherine plans to use some of her winnings to help fund a mentoring program for young women she has run for the past 15 years. “She has been struggling for funding and now she can do that with her own funding,” Arthur said. “She can go and change lives on her own accord.”
— New Jersey Lottery (@TheNJLottery) May 13, 2016
The family took a few days to come forward as they were assembling a team of financial advisers. They said their friends and employers don’t even know the news yet – but they expect to hear from them soon.
“I suppose in about an hour for now everyone we know will come out of the woodwork,” Arthur said. “There’s a lot of people and a lot of different organizations that we really want to help.”
“We get to pick! Don’t come to us!” she added.
For anyone looking to glean the family’s lottery-winning strategy, Arthur explained that they are infrequent lottery ticket buyers.
“We usually play when the Powerball gets over a certain amount,” Arthur said. “We’re not avid players – we play just like everybody else when the lottery goes up.”
The family’s prize was the sixth biggest jackpot in Powerball history and the biggest amount won by a single ticket sold in New Jersey. “I just want you to know that anything can happen in New Jersey!” Arthur concluded.