A group of lottery-playing lunch ladies — no, not THAT group of lunch ladies — came oh so close to hitting the record multistate Powerball jackpot last weekend but is crediting the earlier food-serving fortune finders as inspiration.
Recalling the famous lunch ladies from Holdingford, Minn., who shared a $95.4 million jackpot in October 2003, 16 in the same vocation at Buffalo High School pooled their dreams and hit Saturday for a far smaller, but nothing-to-sneeze-at, Powerball consolation prize: $50,000.
“If it could happen to them, it could happen to us,” said Buffalo group member Lynnette Neumann.
The group doesn’t pool its money to buy Powerball tickets until the jackpot gets really big. No tickets matched the numbers drawn for Saturday’s estimated $900 million jackpot, which rolled over to $1.5 billion for Wednesday night’s drawing.
Arlene Nelson bought the Buffalo group’s winning ticket at SuperAmerica, at 370 Central Av. E. in St. Michael and come Saturday night, she recalled, “I yelled at my husband — ‘We won! We won!’ ”
The group beat astromoical odds and matched four numbers plus the Powerball in Saturday’s drawing. Nine other winners did the same in Minnesota. Matching the Powerball and all five numbers would have landed the lunch-serving veterans the big enchilada.
Nelson broke the news to Neumann the next day and the others on Monday. “I couldn’t stop laughing,” Neumann recalled. “I kept saying, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ”
After serving lunch Tuesday, all 16 came to the Minnesota State Lottery headquarters in Roseville, still in uniform, and claimed their prize. Each group member won $3,125 and received a check for a little more than $2,000 after taxes.
The winners are: Nelson of Albertville; Neumann; Nancy Allen, Linda Anderson, Lisa Dohrmann, Karen Gannon, Lisa Johnson, Kathryn Lohse, Sara Opeiw, Beverly Wahlenberg and Kim Willmert, all of Buffalo; Donna Jannette of Monticello; Patricia Hughes of Montrose; Sandra Meyer of Rogers; Lonna Sonenstahl of St. Michael; and Cheryl Philippi of South Haven.
The Powerball jackpot has been growing since Nov. 7, 2015. During the jackpot run, $30 million in sales has resulted in $6.7 million for Minnesota’s general fund and $5.4 million to benefit Minnesota’s environment. Minnesota players have won more than $3.7 million since the jackpot run began.