The lucky Long Island Costco workers who won the $201.9 million Powerball jackpot earlier this month basked in the glory of their success Thursday afternoon in Melville.
Friends, family, and customers watched as the 20 winners held oversized Powerball checks in their hands and recounted their life-changing experience at a podium set up in the parking lot of the wholesale store.
A Copiague man who said he woke up at 4 a.m. on June 2 and discovered that his group of co-workers had just became millionaires recalled that he took several looks at the winning numbers before he contacted the 19 other members of his winning team.
“[I was] shaking my head, clearing my eyes,” said Ralph Green, 61, a security guard at Costco. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
The drawing took place on June 1. Once it was announced that the winners were a group of employees from Costco in Melville, shoppers were eager to find out who the new millionaires were, said the store’s General Manager Bart Bartoldus.
“Everybody was asking, ‘Who won? Who were they?’ ” he said.
Many of those same customers lined the parking lot as each winner was introduced one by one by the well-known voice of the New York Lottery, Yolanda Vega. The group of 20 stood in front of a Costco truck that provided the background for the ceremony while spectators cheered them on. In celebration of the occasion, a baker from Costco had made cakes decorated with the winning numbers 8, 18, 38, 46, 56, and the Powerball No. 31.
Flanking Vega at the podium was Green and Kim Karkota, 37, whom the group had chosen to be their spokespersons for the media event. They’d only started playing the Powerball together for about a month, each contributing about $5 a piece, when the jackpot was $144 million.
After waking up his wife, Green called Karkota, who then phoned Anthony Manzolillo of Lindenhurst. He had purchased the winning ticket at Maulik & Chandni stationary store on West Montauk Highway in Lindenurst.
“I didn’t want to call Anthony at 5 o’clock in the morning and wake him up and give him a heart attack,” said Karkota of Mastic.
She waited about seven minutes, calling him at 5:07 a.m. “Get out of bed, quickly get out of bed and get the wining ticket because we won the Powerball last night,” Karkota said she told him.
Manzolillo, 73, called her back and said, “Kim, we won! I have the ticket in my hand.”
Karkota said that when Manzolillo went out to buy the lottery tickets for his Costco group, he realized he’d forgotten his co-workers’ money when he got to the stationary store. He came back later in the day and that’s when he bought the winning ticket.
After taxes, each winner will take home around $3 million each, enough to live comfortably, Karkota said.
“We’re all dedicated to making our money last, and just to breathe easy and have a happy life,” she said.
Green, who has three children and two grandchildren, was a little more adventurous.
“I think a trip to Vegas is appropriate,” he said.
Fourteen of the winners are from Suffolk County, and some are old enough to think about a retirement plan, while others are just looking to move out of their parents’ homes. The oldest winner is Manzolillo and the youngest is 24-year-old Kevin Saphire of Lindenhurst.
John Farrelly, the father of one of the winners, said he was shocked when his 27-year-old son James told him he’d won.
“I still can’t believe it,” he said. “It’s very nice to know that you’re son is financially secure.”
After they knew they’d won, Manzolillo and the other winners followed the advice of the New York Lottery organization and set up a legal entity so they could receive their share of the prize money. They named their group the 1937 Flatbush Avenue Dodgers LLC, in honor of the Brooklyn Dodgers—Manzolillo’s favorite baseball team growing up.
Wearing a Dodgers jersey for the celebration was Allan VanDett, who spoke on behalf of his wife Jaime. The couple is looking to move to the Carolina’s and buy a house, as well as help other people who aren’t as fortunate, VanDett said.
He said the couple thanked Manzolillo for buying the ticket. “You know he changed our lives,” VanDett said. “He changed 19 lives including himself.”
Mitul Patel, who owns the stationary store, received a $10,000 bonus check from New York Lottery for selling the winning ticket.
“It’s been very good for business,” he said, adding that groups of people who come into his store “are very happy.”
So far no one has said they plan to quit their jobs at Costco, but some are definitely thinking about it. In the mean time, Karkota said they will continue to play the lottery to see if their luck will strike again.
“Why ruin a good thing?” she said. “We’ve only been playing for a month.”
All the winners are listed below:
Anthony Manzolillo, 73, Lindenhurst, a member services employee
Earl Smith, 63, Amityville, a member services employee
Ralph Green, 61, Copiague, security employee
Jasper Corso, 60, Woodbury, pharmacist
Carlos Torres, 60, Farmingdale, member services employee
Gwendolyn Paolini, 57, Lindenhurst, photo manager
Chris Duran, 53, Deer Park, assistant general manager
Maureen Prior, 49, West Hempstead, demonstrations employee
Cindy Magnes, 46, Wantagh, administration employee
Geraldine Smyth, 45, Farmingdale, vault clerk
Jose Garcia, 44, Lindenhurst, meat cutter
Ed Obarowski, 42, Islip, supervisor
Camille DiGiona, 41, Lindenhurst, payroll clerk
Joyce Malik, 41, Selden, administrative manager
Valerie Woolley, 41, West Babylon, supervisor
Kim Karkota, 37, Mastic, merchandise manager
Jaime VanDett, 27, Lindenhurst, photo department employee
James Farrelly, 27, Lindenhurst, supervisor
Michael Volino, 25, Bethpage, supervisor
Kevin Saphire, 24, Lindenhurst, front end supervisor