The day started for a group that would call themselves “The Enforcer Five” with a big breakfast at the Gastonia IHOP.
Then they headed down the interstate to Raleigh to pick up their 1 million bucks.
Five Gaston County sheriff's deputies who won the Powerball payoff made the trip together Wednesday to claim the prize: $136,000 each, after taxes.
“On the way down, we talked about how lucky we are,” said Sgt. Fay Costner of Crouse. “We were counting our blessings.”
The group included Charlie Martin of Kings Mountain, Thomas Summey of Belmont, Joseph Heffner of Gastonia and Barry Ervin of Dallas. All five work together at the Gaston County Jail and have been buying lottery tickets as a group for less than a year. About once a month, they'd pitch in $20 each.
“It's a luxury thing if you've got a little extra money,” said Costner, 47, who grew up in Charlotte. “We take care of our families first. We never let it take away from our families.”
She bought the $2 ticket for the Jan. 24 drawing at the TAS Drug on West Church Street in Cherryville.
When she learned the group had the winning ticket, “it was just an overjoyed feeling,” Costner said. “It's hard to explain.”
For the sake of privacy and their safety, she and her co-workers wanted to avoid the media spotlight, and would not allow their pictures to be taken, even though “it didn't take long for the word to get out.”
Lottery officials learned from “The Enforcer Five” about plans for the winnings: buying new golf clubs, paying for a wedding, helping put a teenager through college and starting a nest egg for retirement.
Costner said she and husband, Ray, who is retired from the N.C. Department of Correction, are looking forward to a wedding anniversary trip to Charleston next month.
But that's about the nearest thing to a splurge.
“We're going to pay off the house and cars and basically put the rest back,” said Costner, who plans to continue working with the Sheriff's Department. “We're feeling a lot better now that we can really save some money. This will make it a lot easier.”
On the Raleigh trip, Costner said, the group remembered folks from Gaston and surrounding counties who'd lost their jobs in recent layoffs.
“We're regular folks, and we know we're very fortunate,” she said. “This is really like an extra dozen roses or something.”