Photo credit: AP Photo/Mel Evans, Pictured: Pearlie Mae Smith sitting in the center of her two daughters, Rene Bethina Smith (left) and Katherine Nicole Nunnally (right).
It’s not every day that you win the lottery or hear of a family using a portion of their winnings to create a foundation to pay it forward. Well, the Smith family of Trenton, New Jersey have already done both.
Last year, Pearlie Mae Smith and her seven children won a $429.6 million lottery jackpot through what Smith describes as “divine intervention”. “That’s the only way you can explain how the numbers were chosen. It was through a dream,” said Smith.
While the total amount of the winnings were reduced to about $284 million due to the family choosing the cash option, the Smith family still stuck to their initial plan to find some way to give back to their hometown. Now, a year later they’re doing just that by establishing the Smith Family Foundation.
According to NJ.com, by starting a grant-making fund, the Smiths “hope to give back and make a difference in their hometown of Trenton and elsewhere for years to come.”
“I think that seed (of giving back) has always been with us … but after winning the lottery, we’re able to do it on a much larger scale now than we have in the past,” said Valerie Arthur, one of Smith’s daughters.
One of the main goals of the foundation is to invest in the city’s programs and organizations that will produce long-term change in employment, education, neighborhood development and more.
“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 Harold Smith, who is the foundation’s program manager. “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.”
Arthur added: “We’re making an investment in our community and when you make an investment, you expect a return. 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.”
The foundation, described by Harold Smith as “a legacy for the family”, is set to host its grand opening Saturday, June 10.
We salute the Smith family for going the extra mile to invest in the future of their community.