A New Jersey family that won a $429 million Powerball jackpot four years ago made another installment Tuesday on a pledge to use their winnings to help the community.

The Smith Family Foundation announced plans to award a $10,000 scholarship this year to a graduate of Trenton Central High School. Pearlie Mae Smith and her seven children who won the lottery in 2016 are all alumni. The scholarship is the latest created by the family and will be worth tens of thousands of dollars over the years.

“It’s a blessing to be a blessing to someone else," said Katherine Nunnally, executive director of the foundation. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Since winning what was then the largest lottery jackpot in New Jersey, the Smith family has kept a promise to help others. They gave 10% to their church and set up the foundation to give grants to charities that support their mission.

Pearlie Mae Smith (center), daughters Rene Bethina Smith (left) and Katherine Nunnally, and five of their siblings shared the $429.6 million jackpot in 2016.
Pearlie Mae Smith (center), daughters Rene Bethina Smith (left) and Katherine Nunnally, and five of their siblings shared the $429.6 million jackpot in 2016.

Nunnally and family members announced the $40,000 Legacy scholarship at a news conference at the school, which enrolls nearly 1,900 students in 10th through 12th grades.

The needs-based scholarship can be renewed yearly for four years for undergraduate education Nunnally said. A new scholarship will be added annually, she said.

The scholarship will be funded equally by the Foundation and Central, which plans to raise funds to generate its portion. On Tuesday, School Board President Addie Daniels-Lane, a 1974 alum, donated $1,000 from her class. The school’s administrators also gave $1,000. School Superintendent Ronald Lee added $500 for the scholarship fund.

“It’s about how do we pay things forward? How do we help the next generation?" said Lee. “We don’t want anyone’s dream deferred because they couldn’t pay for it.”

The scholarship is open only to Central graduates with at least a 3.0 GPA who complete 20 hours of community service. The recipient must attend a four-year higher education institution.

About one-third of the school’s 600 seniors meet the scholarship criteria, said principal Hope Grant. The application process opens Feb. 1. The winner will be announced on Awards Night in June, Grant said.

Nunnally said the foundation annually gives out $15,000 in other scholarships, including a $5,000 award for a special education student and five $500 book awards. It is also adding two scholarships this year for students who plan to attend a trade school, she said.

The Smith family has given away millions, including $750,000 to build a church in Bridgeton, N.J. The foundation does not provide direct funding to individuals and instead gives grants designed to help groups empower others through education, neighborhood development, Christian education and youth, and family programs.

Most of the foundation’s work is restricted to Trenton, but the family extended its philanthropy beyond the city. In 2016, the foundation invested $16,000 to build a one-room school in Haiti. Nunnally said the foundation is now adding a playground to the complex.

The Smith family had the single winning ticket for the sixth-largest jackpot in Powerball history at the time. With the lump-sum option chosen, the ticket was worth $284 million before taxes. The family matriarch, Pearlie Mae, credited divine intervention with providing her with the numbers in a dream.