Lerynne West was moving into her first owned house in Redfield on Friday, Oct. 26. What she didn’t know was that same day, her life would change forever.
West, 51, is the Iowa winner of the Powerball lottery that was announced Sunday, Oct. 28. The news of her winning was announced Monday, Nov. 5 at the Iowa Lottery Headquarters in Clive.
West, a single mother of three daughters has played the lottery twice a week, when she could afford the tickets.
“My girls and I used to dream of winning the lottery. We never thought we would be here today,” West said. “I’ve played the lottery twice a week when I had the money to do it. The most I had ever won up to this point was $150.”
Now, West’s daughters are grown and she has six grandchildren.
“The most important thing that we’re all here for is to figure out what I’m going to do with the money. And I want you to know that as I stand here today, I know the responsibility that I have to do good with this money. And my life has changed forever.” West said. “I plan to make thoughtful and responsible decisions on giving to my friends, my family and setting up so that my grandchildren will all have a college education.”
West understands the importance of her grandchildren’s education, as she worked hard for her own degree.
At the age of 17, West left high school in order to work and help her family financially. She earned her GED at the age of 19. Not long after, West started her family. She worked full time and took night and weekend classes to earn her bachelor degree in human resources from Upper Iowa University.
While working full time for most of her life, West is excited to announce that as of a week ago, she has retired.
“My life has changed. And I’m going to take a little bit to figure out what my new normal is,” West said. “But I want to assure you that I never want to forget where I came from.”
West was born and raised in Iowa. She grew up in Earlham and has lived in Dallas County for most of her adult life.
The day she moved to Redfield was fairly normal, according to West.
“Friday, Oct. 26 started out like most other days, only it was kind of special for me because I had bought my first home. I bought a home in Redfield, Iowa, and I was moving that day,” West said.
Her sister came to the house to help her unpack. Once her sister arrived, West said she was hungry and needed coffee, so the two women decided to head to Casey’s for a slice of pizza and coffee. While paying for her food, West decided to buy a couple lottery tickets, too.
“I didn’t think of tickets again until Saturday morning,” West said.
A friend had texted her to ask if she had won the lottery. West asked if someone from Iowa won and found out that there was a winner in Iowa and in New York.
She went to find her tickets - which she thought were in her purse - and didn’t find them. West wasn’t worried about her tickets, though, thinking “they’re somewhere in the moving mess.”
West ended up calling her sister and her sister informed her that her tickets were in her sister’s truck, which the two women had driven to Casey’s the day before. West’s sister checked the tickets for her and found that one of the tickets had the winning Powerball number - 4.
West had her sister send her a photo of the tickets. She then went on the lottery website to check all her numbers.
West initially couldn’t believe her eyes, thinking she had won no money at all. Then, she realized she put in the numbers for the wrong date. Then entering her numbers in on the correct date, West still couldn’t believe her eyes.
“(I saw) ‘Jackpot.’ I thought ‘I’ve done something wrong,’ West said. “It took me about a minute going back and forth to figure out that I had won. And I said to my sister ‘Get that ticket, get in your truck and get up here and drive slow.’”
West was, and still is, emotional about her winnings.
“First, I was in disbelief. And then I had the reaction of ‘I don’t want anything to do with it,’ West said. It’s taken a while to get used to the thought of the whole new dynamic that my life is going to be. … I do consider myself very lucky and very blessed.”
West has opted to take the lump sum.
She has already set up the Callum Foundation, which was officially up and running as of 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 5.
“So that Callum Foundation is set up in honor of a grandson of mine that was born in April and he was born at 24 weeks. He lived for one day. That foundation is to honor him,” West said. “We’ve established that foundation so we can determine who best to help and how we can help them.”
Dreaming of winning the lottery versus actually winning is very different, according to West.
“You know, when we were dreaming about it I would get all frivolous and I would have a whole lineup of cars that I was going to buy. And that’s not the case anymore,” West said. “All of a sudden, once you have won and you realize the responsibility and the impact you can make, all frivolity goes out the window. I started thinking more of who I was going to help and my stuff was sort of an afterthought.”
West said the first thing she is going to buy for herself is a new car.
“Currently, I drive a Ford Fiesta that people have just beat up. It’s got 142,000 miles on it and I’m going to get a car big enough that I can take all my grandkids places in,” West said.