The Smith family from Trenton, NJ had the sole winning ticket for a May 2016 Powerball jackpot that had ballooned to over $429 million. The prize was shared by Pearlie Mae Smith and her seven adult children. Ms. Smith said it was “divine intervention” that lead her to purchase the winning ticket when she did.
The jackpot was split 8-ways and each person in the family contributed a portion of their winnings to start the Smith Family Foundation. The family seeks to use the foundation as a way to create grants that will give back opportunity to their beloved Trenton and make a difference in the community.
After choosing the cash payout option, the family received an upfront amount of $284 million. Although they treated themselves with some of the life changing money, none of the family members splurged on expensive new houses, luxury sports cars, or arbitrarily handed money out to anyone that came asking. Instead they are focused on building the family’s foundation to where it will be around for many generations to help people in their community.
Valerie Arthur, one of Smith’s daughters said, “I could have gotten a yacht and never come back, but we just have a heart and mind to do this work. It’s a blessing to have the ability to do whatever you want to do in this life and yet you choose to come and help somebody else — that right there is divine intervention.” Ms. Arthur explained that from a young age, their mother instilled in them the value of giving back, which was done by having a community garden in their backyard and also volunteering at a soup kitchen.
The foundation’s program manager, Harold Smith, who is a nephew of Valerie Arthur, said the foundation wants to invest in organizations and programs that will bring about long-term change in categories like education, neighborhood development, and youth and families. He said, “We want to fund programs that directly affect systems of poverty so we can help change the systems or change the dynamics that are causing people to be in poverty. Rather than just helping them find food or give away food, we can make it so they now have the ability to obtain employment, get their proper education in order to be able to go out and get their own food.”
The foundation is truly a family affair as it is ran by Katherine Nunnally, who is another one of Ms. Smith’s daughters. As the executive director, Ms. Nunnally is training her siblings as well as her nieces and nephews on how to run such an organization.