After a decade of pitching in a dollar a week, a Powerball office pool paid off in a huge way yesterday for 22 Kentuckians.
The group of current and former employees of a Bardstown business claimed the $61.5 million Powerball jackpot yesterday afternoon after making their way to Louisville in a white SUV limousine.
When a lady at the lottery claim window asked Jane Shelver if she could help her with something, Shelver's response came quickly and enthusiastically.
"You certainly can," Shelver said as she handed over the winning ticket on behalf the group being called "The Nukote 22." Nukote International produces imaging supplies like paper and laser toner, according to the company's Web site.
Each member's share will be about $894,000 after taxes, if they take the cash option, said Chip Polston, lottery spokesman.
The group, which always let the computer select its numbers, is the state's first Powerball winner in four years, according to the lottery. Their winning numbers were 25, 27, 31, 44 and 54, with a Powerball of 8.
Shelver said some people in the group had already decided to take the cash option for the jackpot, which lottery officials said will end up being $28.5 million before taxes.
The lottery announced earlier in the day that the winning ticket was sold Monday at a Five Star Food Mart in Bardstown, but the winners weren't confirmed until the Nukote group arrived at the Louisville headquarters and the ticket passed through security checks.
The group includes people who work in Nukote's customer-service call center and accounts-receivable department, said Bonnie Bullock, a company supervisor and a member of the winning lottery pool. They also included several laid-off workers who chose not to move when their jobs were relocated to other cities this summer, Bullock said.
Because the Powerball pool had been paid several weeks ahead, the winning ticket included some of the former employees, said ex-employee Mike Willett, one of the winners, during a group news conference yesterday at the lottery's headquarters on Main Street.
"This was my last time pitching in, so I'm certainly happy," said Willett, who recently took a job with a different company. "This couldn't have happened to a nicer group."
Not everyone got to go to Louisville in the limousine to claim the money.
Bullock and another winner stayed behind in Bardstown yesterday to answer phones and fill in for the rest of the people who traveled to Louisville.
"I've never worked so hard in my life," Bullock said during a phone interview. "But it's worth it. We even had a third person volunteer to come in and help fill in."
Many in the group said they would use the money to pay bills and help send their children to college. But no one was talking about quitting their jobs yesterday.
Janet Adams, one of the winners, said she has two children and her husband was recently injured, so the money will help the family a lot.
Kathy Graham, another winner, said she and her husband were supposed to go to lunch together to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
"I came here instead, of course," Graham said, laughing. "This is quite an anniversary present."
It's too soon for some to know how they'll spend the money, Shelver said.
"Today has been a rollercoaster, and I think it will take a while for it to sink in," she said.
Shelver's morning began with an early call from one of the pool members.
Connie Mattingly, a former Nukote employee who now has a different job, said she was the first to realize the group had won.
"I was getting ready for work, and I heard on the news that the winning ticket had been sold in Nelson County," Mattingly said. "Jane (Shelver) e-mails me our numbers, so I got (online) and saw the top line. I never got any further than that."
Mattingly called Shelver, who was so excited she hung up on Mattingly, both women said.
From there, the news spread quickly, Shelver said. Soon the rest of the pool knew, then the rest of the Bardstown office, including one co-worker who had always refused to participate over the years, she said.
"I think she's happy for us though," Shelver said.
The Nukote 22 were the lottery's 15th Powerball winners, and the first Kentucky winners in four years, said Arch Gleason, the president and CEO.
The last winning Powerball ticket in Kentucky was sold in July 2003 at a Hillview convenience story to Jeanie Osborne of Bullitt County. That jackpot was $13.5 million.
In 2000, a Newport, Ky., couple, Virginia Metcalf Merida and Mack Wayne Metcalf, won a $65.4 million Powerball jackpot after buying a $3 ticket at a Florence truck stop.
In April 1994, a resident of Bloomfield, Ky., Brenda Knopp, won a $64.2 million Powerball jackpot. She bought her winning ticket at Bart's Mart in Bloomfield, about 15 miles from Bardstown.
The store in Bardstown that sold the winning ticket will get a selling bonus of $44,000 but the state does not reap any extra benefits, Polston said. Funds raised by the lottery always go to support need-based and merit-based scholarships to Kentucky students, he said. During the past two years, the lottery has provided an average of $200 million a year to these scholarships, Polston said.
Lottery officials were excited that the jackpot will be shared this time around, Gleason said.
"It really does spread the wealth around," he told the group during the news conference.
In Bardstown, Bullock said it was still a little hard to believe that after 10 years, the group had finally won.
"It just goes to show you that it can happen," she said.