Since 1990, 16 Minnesota women have been putting a quarter each towards four Powerball tickets, and this weekend they hit the jackpot. The 15 cafeteria workers and one custodian of a local Minnesota high school are the proud owners of a lottery ticket worth $95 million.
The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith got the pleasure to speak with the 16, who won half of the $190.9 million Powerball jackpot. They were dressed in matching red shirts and were full of laughter.
Cafeteria worker Donna Lange said she was the first to discover the win Sunday, while she was checking the numbers in the newspaper for the Saturday night drawing. She thought she had written the numbers down incorrectly and wanted to check it against the tickets, which she kept at the school.
She called her co-worker Karen Overman, who had a key to the school.
Overman says, "Donna was the one who took care of the lottery tickets. She was the one who manned the whole thing. But when she called me, it was in disbelief. I called her a liar three times but I knew, 7:00 a.m. on Sunday morning - maybe the other ladies had pulled this on me, but Donna wouldn't of. So I had to make a trip up here."
Both Overman and Lange went to the Holdingford School District school, where they feed roughly 950 students, to look at the ticket, which was tacked on a bulletin board. The winning numbers matched.
Lange was hardly able to tell Smith how they started pooling their qurters toward lottery tickets. "You have to excuse me," she says. "I've just about lost my voice from all of the whooping and hollering. But it started before I started at the school."
Overman says, "We would buy tickets twice a week. One for the Wednesday and one for the Saturday."
Cathy Shultz adds, "We started pitching in the quarter and 13 years later, here we are!"
Overman notes, "We had to verify it and we checked the newspapers and the local radio station and then we pulled up the Web site on the computer. And, by George! It all matched."
When the women were told, they were shocked. They decided to keep it a secret by telling only family members Sunday night. But the news quickly spread in their small town of 700 people near St. Cloud.
The school was told as well since the women wanted to change the lunch menu for Monday. They wanted to feed the kids something quick and easy so they could leave early to collect their winnings. Also, they suspected they might have to leave school if word got out and the media attention became too intense.
A band and a big group of students saw them off as they left Monday afternoon to have the ticket validated at the lottery headquarters in Roseville.
The women said they hadn't decided whether to choose the cash option, which would amount to $2.1 million apiece after taxes, or the payment option, valued at $134,000 per year for 30 years.
Their wish lists include new cars, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a vacation and paying off a wedding.
Cafeteria worker Phylis Breth has double joy. She was becoming a grandmother when she got news of the jackpot.
The women, who call themselves the "Happy Huskers" after the school's mascot, the Huskers, said they still plan to continue to work at the school and to pitch in a quarter for Powerball tickets as they have been doing since 1990.
Only the janitor is quitting. Alice Kobylinsky said, "The janitor works full-time. These ladies work school days only. The janitor is quitting!"
Lange added she also is set to retire.
The winning ticket was purchased at Dahlin's Supermarket in Avon.
The Holdingford group is Minnesota's 16th Powerball winner. Their lump award is the largest haul in Minnesota since Farrah Slad of Brainerd pocketed $78.8 million in cash in 1999 to become the biggest Powerball winner in the state.
They're the first Powerball winners in Minnesota since late 2001, when Jeff Holmberg of Richfield took home $16.7 million in cash.