HUNTINGTON BEACH (  — A Huntington Beach woman who was unemployed for two years and barely making ends meet, won nearly $300,000 in Wednesday’s Powerball draw.

Linda Lou Stephens, 60, was one of nine Californians who matched five of six numbers (they all missed the all-important Powerball number) and each won $289,341.

Stephens told KCAL9’s Michele Gile the win couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Stephens, who says she is more spiritual than religious, prayed for enough money to get by.

Her two daughters are grown and have left the nest, but she and her husband adopted her 17-year-old nephew and her husband, on disability, is unable to work

“We were at the point when we were going to have to leave the state,” she says, “and the thought of leaving my girls? God, wouldn’t let that happen. He knew that I needed them as much as they needed me.”

Stephens often played games of chance but recently stopped believing she couldn’t afford to keep playing.

The $425 million jackpot (it ended up actually being closer to $448 million) was too big a lure to pass up and on Monday she decided to buy 5 tickets — $10 worth of chance. It was also her first time playing Powerball.

She missed the total jackpot by one number.

“The Powerball was 32 and we had 31,” Stephens says. “The lady at the Lottery office said, ‘Doesn’t that bother you?’ And you know, it doesn’t. I didn’t ask for millions. I asked to get enough to get by.”

Stephens told Gile she wants to put money back into a pet clothing company she started about a year ago — she makes Hawaiian shirts and skirts for dogs.

In the meantime, there are also some gifts to buy. Stephens told Gile that when money was tight, several friends helped her out and now she wants to repay the kindness.

“There are a couple of people who will be receiving gifts from my husband and I. They’ve been there for us, and supported us … and they helped us. And it will feel so good to give back,” said Stephens.

The lump sum payout of about $217,000 should be arriving in the next 6-8 weeks.

Stephens told Gile she didn’t expect all this money to change her — except she will no longer have to buy day-old bread at the store.


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