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Cheese Company Workers in Wisconsin Speak About $208.6M Powerball Win

FOND DU LAC, Wis. – The 100 cheese company workers who won a Powerball jackpot worth $208.6 million tried a number of things to increase their luck — and finally won when they rubbed the belly of a small statue of the Buddha.

“We don’t know if it was this Buddha that brought us luck. We don’t know if it was our prayers to God that were answered,” said Mary Entringer, who organized the pool. “We have no idea, we’re just grateful.”

Entringer, 55, said workers on the second shift at the Sargento Cheese plant in Plymouth pooled their money for three years before they bought the winning ticket to the Aug. 5 drawing.

The winners, who call themselves the “100 Miracles,” turned in their ticket Friday. They have hired a lawyer and plan to split the prize equally.

They spoke Wednesday morning at Ma and Pa’s Grocery Express in Fond du Lac, where they bought the ticket.

The grocery is along the so-called “Miracle Mile,” a street where several stores sold multimillion-dollar tickets during the 1990s.

Seventy-five of the jackpot winners participated in Wednesday’s event, with Entringer and one other speaking at the news conference.

Entringer said three winners have left the company — one retired, one went into business with his wife and the third wanted to pursue other opportunities. She said she plans to continue working at the cheese factory, but will use the money to buy a lake home in northern Wisconsin.

State law requires a court order to split the prize, and the lottery said it expects to receive one within several weeks. Each person can pick either the lump sum or installments, according to the Wisconsin Lottery.

If a person picks the lump sum, he or she will get $660,000 to $670,000 after taxes, Sargento spokesman Joe Trost said.

Lottery spokeswoman Jessica Iverson said people who pick the installment plan will get 30 payments, once a year after the initial payment. The first would be about $37,000 and the last would be about $110,000.

After the court order is issued, each person will get a payment or the lump sum within 10 business days, Iverson said.

Ma and Pa’s — which will receive $100,000 for this latest win — sold a winning Megabucks ticket worth $6.5 million in 1994 and has sold winning tickets for $500,000, $250,000 and $100,000.

Sargento chief executive officer Lou Gentine has said the winners do a variety of jobs, such as cutting and shredding cheese, loading trucks and performing maintenance. Most earn between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, he said.

The family owned company packages shredded, snack and specialty cheeses and other snack foods.

The 100 cheese company workers who won a Powerball jackpot worth $208.6 million tried a number of things to increase their luck — and finally won when they rubbed the belly of a small statue of the Buddha.

Cheese workers cheer $208 million lottery win

The organizers of a lottery pool at a cheese company were starting to get discouraged. They had tried good luck charms for three years and even considered going to a different store to buy the tickets.

But then a worker suggested rubbing the belly of a Buddha statue, which some say will bring good luck. They set the statue on the tickets in a worker’s locker, and people went in to rub it.

Then their luck changed, as they won a $208.6 million Powerball jackpot in August.

“We don’t know if it’s the Buddha that brought us the good fortune to win this. We don’t know if it was our prayers to God that were answered,” said Mary Entringer, who organized the pool at Sargento Foods Inc. in Plymouth. “We’re just grateful it was 100 people, and we’re all going to share in this bounty.”

The winners, who call themselves the “100 Miracles,” turned in their Powerball ticket Friday and plan to split the prize equally.

Entringer, 55, said 70 to 90 workers on the plant’s second shift usually pool their money for the lottery when the jackpot is over $100 million. But she said something made her go against company rules and make an announcement over the public address system the day before the Aug. 5 drawing. That boosted participation to 100 employees.

Entringer spoke during a news conference with about 75 of the winners Wednesday in front of Ma and Pa’s Grocery Express in Fond du Lac, where they bought the ticket. The store will receive $100,000 for the win.

‘Wonderful to share’
Entringer said four winners have left the company — a 63-year-old woman retired, a man went into business with his wife and another person wanted to pursue other opportunities. The fourth was a college student who worked at the company over the summer.

But other workers, including Entringer, said they plan to keep working at the factory. Most winners earn between $30,000 and $50,000 a year.

Entringer said she will invest her winnings and look for a lake home in northern Wisconsin — and keep playing the lottery on her own.

Shirley Roehrborn, 54, said her first day back at work after they won was emotional.

“Everybody is hugging, everyone is crying,” she said. “It was just wonderful to share it with everyone.”

State law requires a court order to split the prize, and the lottery said it expects to receive one within several weeks. Each person can pick either the lump sum or installments, according to the Wisconsin Lottery. Entringer said most people picked the lump sum, which is $660,000 to $670,000 after taxes.

People who pick the installment plan will receive about $1.4 million after taxes. Lottery spokeswoman Jessica Iverson said they will get annual payments for 30 years, with the first about $25,000 and the last about $79,000 after taxes.

Mike Theune, 23, one of the youngest winners, said he also plans to remain at Sargento, although he wants to pursue a degree in human resources management. He plans to invest most of his winnings for an early retirement, but does want to buy a house, an all-terrain vehicle and a vehicle for his father.

“I’m going to live the simple life and lead a low profile,” Theune said.

The organizers of a lottery pool at a cheese company were starting to get discouraged. They had tried good luck charms for three years and even considered going to a different store to buy the tickets. ]]>