The Powerball-winning Smith family dedicates a portion of their jackpot to help Trenton, New Jersey
They’ve set up a foundation focused on education, Christian values and neighborhood development
It’s been a year since the eight members of the Smith family learned they were winners of a $429.6 million New Jersey Powerball jackpot — the largest single jackpot ticket ever sold in New Jersey. And while the shock has worn off, they are now turning to the work of helping others with a portion of their prize money.
The family actually received a lump sum of around $284 million. The $429.6 million prize would have been granted in full only if the family agreed to take it as an annuity paid over 29 years, according to NBC News. After paying bills, student loans, setting some aside as savings and taking care of personal family needs, the family used a portion of their winnings to create the Smith Family Foundation.
The foundation, established shortly after the win, aims to help transform lives by providing resources to residents of Trenton, New Jersey, and surrounding areas.
“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,” said Arthur Smith, the grandson of Pearlie Smith, the matriarch of the family, in an interview with NJ.com. “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.”
According to the foundation website, their family’s upbringing in Trenton inspired them to be of service to others. Pearlie Smith raised her seven children in an environment filled with poverty and drugs, but taught them the value of hard work and the importance of education and treating others with respect. Together, they attended church and kept God at the center of their lives.
It’s part of the reason that Pearlie Smith, 70, also believes it was divine intervention the day she played the winning numbers at a Trenton 7-Eleven. The numbers— 5, 25, 26, 44, 66 and Powerball, 9 — were played after they came to the family in a dream, according to Pearlie Smith’s eldest daughter, Valerie Arthur.
The foundation will fund grassroots organizations focusing on education, Christian values, neighborhood development, youth and families, and other projects. There will be multiyear grants for organizations willing to participate in a training program during the entire life of the grant cycle, one-year grants for organizations that attend two technical workshops during the grant cycle, and summer programming for organizations that participate in one leadership development training session, according to the site.
“We’re making an investment in our community, and when you make an investment, you expect a return,” Arthur said. “So we want to see what the social return is going to be, what the educational return is going to be, what the transformations in people’s lives is going to be.”