Pearlie Mae Smith, center, reacts as she sits with daughters Rene Bethina Smith and Katherine Nicole Nunnally as they talk about life after winning the lottery May 13, 2016, in Lawrenceville, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP Images)

What would you do if you won a $429.6 million Powerball jackpot? My (admittedly shallow and selfish) fantasy includes buying a private island and never having to deal with people again. However, one Trenton, N.J., family is going above and beyond and showing extreme selflessness by choosing to put some of their winnings into their own grant-making fund to help make their community better.

As reports, about a year ago, the Smith family scored big and won the massive jackpot. However, the family of eight, which includes Pearlie Mae Smith and her seven adult children, didn’t blow it all on expensive houses, cars and vacations. Nor did they write big checks to the long-lost friends and relatives who tend to pop into your life when things like this happen.


Instead, each family member gave a portion of their winnings to start the Smith Family Foundation, a grant-making fund they hope can improve their community and elsewhere in the years to come.

According to the report, the family chose the cash option, lowering their prize to a still sizable $284 million, which was then split eight ways. They did treat themselves, but from the beginning they made it clear that they wanted to find a way to give back and do more with their newfound wealth.

The family say that it is their faith in God that helps to guide their decisions, just as it was “divine intervention” that led them to pick the winning numbers.

“I could have gotten a yacht and never come back, but we just have a heart and mind to do this work,” said Valerie Arthur, one of Smith’s daughters. “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.”


Harold Smith, Arthur’s nephew and the foundation’s program manager, said that the foundation is about investing in other organizations and programs that will bring about long-term change in the community in areas like education, neighborhood development, and youths and families.

“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,” he said. “Rather than just helping them find food or give away food, we can make it so they now have the ability to obtain employment, and get ... education in order to be able to go out and get their own food.”


The foundation is looking to partner with groups that share its core values of education, cultivation, transformation and urban ministry, according to

“When people think of the city of Trenton, we don’t want the first thing they think of to be gangs and violence,” he said. “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.”


The funding will range from small-impact grants and summer programming to one- and three-year grants, notes.

“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.”


“The foundation is a legacy for the family,” Harold Smith added.

The grand opening of the organization’s headquarters will be on June 10 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.



News Editor at The Root, animation nerd, soca junkie, yogi

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