A New Jersey bodega owner who emigrated from the Dominican Republic stepped forward today as the winner of a $338 million Powerball jackpot. Pedro Quezada's life of 18-hour workdays is all behind him and he now plans to help those in need.
Quezada, 45, came to the United States 26 years ago for work. Speaking through a translator at a news conference today, he said he felt "pure joy" and "never thought he would win such a prize."
He purchased the winning ticket at Eagle Liquor in Passaic, N.J., and wasn't aware the store had sold the lucky ticket or that he was a winner when he stopped in to check his ticket on Monday.
"When it was checked the gentleman at the counter told me congratulations," Quezada said. "I felt pure joy, just happiness."
He told reporters at the store on Monday that he was "very happy" and that he intended to help his family, which includes a wife, five children ranging in age from 5 to 23, and a granddaughter.
It was a sentiment he expressed again today at the news conference, where lottery officials presented him with an oversized yellow check.
"My family is a very humble family, and we are going to help each other out," Quezada said.
Until last year, Quezada had woken up at 5 a.m. to open his bodega and stayed until closing time at 11 p.m., he said. His son had taken over operations of the store, but with his windfall, Quezada said he plans to relieve his son of the job.
Quezada brushed away questions about a fire at his store and a robbery at his apartment in recent years, saying he instead wanted to focus on the future.
"My life has changed," he said. "It will not change my heart."
Quezada said he still needs time to let his newfound riches sink in and isn't sure what he'll do with the money, but he promised to make sure some of it will go to helping those in need.
His neighbors on a short, dead-end block of apartments that abuts a highway told the Associated Press that it was a tight-knit neighborhood.
"This is super for all of us on this block," Eladia Vazquez, who has lived across the street from Quezada's building for the past 25 years, told the AP. "They deserve it because they are hardworking people."
New Jersey's newest millionaire said even though he's beaten the 1 in 175,000,000 odds to win the jackpot, he doesn't plan to give up purchasing Powerball tickets a few times per week.
"Of course," he said. "I'm searching for another win."
Lottery officials told the AP that Quezada decided to accept the winnings in a lump-sum payment worth $221 million, or about $152 million after taxes.