Kelly Cox may not have won the $1.5 billion Virginia Lottery Powerball drawing, but she is feeling like a million bucks.
The hardworking Salem woman and mother of four was only one number shy of winning the record-setting jackpot. But, although she didn’t match the Powerball, she did manage to match five of the numbers in the Jan. 13 drawing, winning $1 million.
Admittedly, she didn’t know much about the game when she played it. But, as the jackpot grew, so did her curiosity, leading her to make a pit-stop at the 7-Eleven on Roanoke Boulevard in Salem on her way home from work on Jan. 12, where she purchased 10 tickets. She put $20 down using the Easy Pick system, which randomly selected the numbers.
Still, she didn’t give her purchase much thought, assuming since she didn’t win the big jackpot, her tickets were a waste.
“They were talking about it on the news and they had the numbers,” Cox said of the morning after the drawing. “I thought you had to match everything up. I noticed I didn’t have an eight, but I had the 10. I threw the ticket into my purse thinking I must have won a couple of bucks and went to work.”
Once she was sitting behind her desk checking her email, her co-worker jokingly asked if she was the new millionaire in Salem.
“I checked my ticket again and asked her if I had to have the ticket in the exact order they were brought up in, and she said no,” Cox said. “I was like oh my god, I think I have it, and she confirmed it.”
Her first call was to her husband, who she said was incredulous upon hearing the news.
“He was like, ‘Congratulations baby. What did you win, $1,000?’” Cox said, laughing.
Cox said she slowly began telling the rest of her family, but wanted to keep it under wraps for a while, which is why it took two weeks before Virginia Lottery announced she won.
She said the amount was perfect for her family, but it won’t change how she goes about her day-to-day life. She said she will continue working, and plans to put the money towards retirement and her children’s education.
“It feels wonderful, especially when you have kids who do a lot for themselves,” Cox said. “They’re the ones putting themselves through college, and to be able to say, ‘this is for you,’ it’s great.”
Cox returned to the 7-Eleven store that sold the winning ticket on Jan. 28 where she was presented with her check. The store didn’t walk away empty handed, either. On the same day, store manager Steve Willeford accepted a $10,000 check from Virginia Lottery on the store’s behalf. Willeford, who has only been manager of the store for a few months, apparently brought a stroke of luck with him.
“It was kind of a relief when I found out we sold it,” Willeford said. “Our customer count was really high up, and our sales associates were swamped every night. As far as I understand, the money goes to the store and to our bottom line. Whatever is leftover will be spread to the staff as a bonus.”
The $1.5 billion jackpot was split between three winners in three different states. However, another million-dollar ticket was sold in Virginia Beach.
“It’s a good reminder to always check your ticket,” said Jill Vaughan, communications director of the Virginia Lottery. “There are a lot of other prizes other than the really big ones.”