A lottery success story with a purpose! Last year, the Smith family of Trenton, New Jersey won a $429 million Powerball jackpot and they are truly putting their money where their mouths are. In a true “paying it forward” venture, Pearlie Mae Smith and her seven children announced via a press conference in May that they planned to help the community with their winnings.
“It was like affirmation from God because we each have dreams that we want to fulfill in this life, and do for our community and do for each other and for our families and we have been funded to do that,” said Valerie Arthur, one of Pearlie Mae’s Smith’s daughters, in the post-win press conference.
In an effort to make the most impact, the family collected their winnings in a lump sum and each member received roughly $25 million after taxes. After tackling financial needs and obligations such as student loans, they invested their money through their Smith Family Foundation, which focuses on creating short-term and long-term grants “to empower [the] community, cultivate leaders and transform lives by providing funding and leadership development to Trenton based organizations,” per the website. Dedicated to financially supporting education, neighborhood development, children and families, the foundation celebrated its one year anniversary just this past month — also, the one year anniversary of the family’s jackpot win.
The foundation website reads, “The seeds for the foundation were planted decades ago in the South Side of Trenton, where Seamon and Pearlie Smith raised their children on values of hard work, love of God, and giving back.”
The foundation’s Program Manager and family member Harold Smith strives to go directly to the source, funding programs that help change the systemic causes of 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,” he told NJ.com.
“When people think of the city of Trenton, we don’t want the first thing they think of to be gangs and violence,” Smith added. “We want people to think of a vibrant city, a city that’s on the upswing, a city that’s bringing new life into the community, the capital of the state.”
This is such a generous effort of the Smith family and it is certainly inspiring for those of us committed to giving back, even in smaller ways.