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Bergen County: What Would YOU Do With $415 Million Powerball Jackpot?

"That's a lot of money," said Janelle Halligan of Lyndhurst. Photo Credit: Anthony Locicero
"I would help my family," said landscaper Craig Gusette of Cresskill. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
FDU freshmen Annie Lizzi and Vanessa Gil said they'd donate the majority of their winnings to pediatric cancer research. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Pete Stern would "devote the rest of my time to music and philanthropic enterprises." Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
"I wouldn't go crazy," said John Peterson. Photo Credit: Matthew Speiser
"I’ve always wanted to help people," said Michael Magnone. Photo Credit: Matthew Speiser
Hair plugs for Mark Kruty? Photo Credit: Anthony Locicero

Dreams have risen along with the jackpot for this Saturday's Powerball jackpot.

BULLETIN: The winning ticket was sold in Mercer County, New Jersey, state lottery officials said early Sunday morning.

At East West Auto Repair in Fair Lawn, partner Pete Stern, 55, of Ringwood said Thursday he'd "drop off the keys to this place with the landlord and walk away."

Then he would "devote the rest of my time to music and philanthropic enterprises."

The payoff rose to $415 million after Wednesday's Powerball drawing produced no winners, giving folks throughout Bergen and Passaic counties and elsewhere hope.

Stern, who calls himself "a trombone player who moonlights as an auto mechanic," talked of opening a social club for working and retired musicians.

The ticket that waitress Janelle Halligan of Lyndhurst bought Wednesday was now worthless, but she remained upbeat.

"It's a hard thing to think about," said Halligan, 25, while taking orders during her shift at Pietro's Trattoria in Lyndhurst. "That's a lot of money."

"I'd quit school," the Bergen Community College student added, "and I'd buy a new car."

Then she'd quit her job and travel.

Landscaper Craig Gusette of Cresskill would quit, too. "Then I would help my family," he said, taking a break from mowing a Bogota lawn.

Fuel oil salesman Michael Magnone said he'd become a philanthropist.

"I’ve always wanted to help people," said Magnone, 54, who shot over to Fort Lee to grab lunch Thursday while working in the Bronx. "The only thing stopping me from doing that is money and time."

Allthough they have years of student loan payments ahead of them, FDU freshmen Annie Lizzi and Vanessa Gil — almost in unison — said they'd donate the majority of it to pediatric cancer research.

"Then I'd pay off college and help my mom buy a house," said Gil, 18, while waiting with Lizzi at the Cedar Lane bus stop for a lift back to Union City. "She's been paying my bills and it's preventing her from buying a house."

Mark Kruty, 30, also was feeling generous as he grabbed lunch at a Lyndhurst 7-Eleven.

"I'd pay off my students loans, help my parents pay off their debt, give some to my niece [2-year-old Sophia] to start a college fund," the borough resident said. "Then maybe I'd get hair plugs."

Taking a break from a roof job on the FedEx building in Fort Lee's Linwood Plaza, 54-year-old contractor John Peterson of Rockland said he'd "pay all my bills, help out my family and probably buy another house in a warm weather climate -- but I wouldn't go crazy.

"You see a lot of people who win the lottery and then in two or three years they are broke again. That won't be me."

Wednesday's Powerball drawing was worth $361.5 million -- a sizable number when you don't consider the $1.6 billion shared by three winners in the largest-ever Powerball jackpot in January.

It's now been more than two months since the multi-state lottery had a full jackpot winner.

The odds? One in more than nearly 300 million.

Daily Voice staffers Cecilia Levine, Lorraine Ash, Anthony Locicero and Matthew Speiser reported this story.

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