RALEIGH – For Mary Eisenband of Union, New Jersey, a trip to visit family turned into something even more memorable when she stopped for gas and won the top prize in the lottery’s $500 a Week for Life! game.

Eisenband purchased her lucky ticket at the Pilot Travel Center on N.C. 48 in Pleasant Hill, which is in Northampton County just off of Interstate 95. The purchase occurred in November while she was on a trip to Georgia.

Eisenband moved to New Jersey from Poland in 1963 and opened a sandwich shop to help support her family.

“This is more money than I have ever seen in my entire life,” said Eisenband as she collected her winnings at lottery headquarters on Monday. “I play the lottery these days because it’s fun for me. I play everywhere I go and I enjoy it. To win like this feels so wonderful. I still don’t believe it.”

The $500 a Week for Life! top prize guarantees winners an annual prize of $26,000 for the rest of their lives. The winner can also choose a lump sum cash prize, worth $354,000, instead of the annuity. Eisenband chose the lump sum option and received a check for $244,968 after state and federal taxes were withheld.

“I’m going to use some of this money to take a nice vacation,” Eisenband said. “I might go to Florida and stay in a fancy hotel. And the rest I’ll share with my family and put in the bank.”

The game is one of four that offer as prizes annual payments that continue through a winner’s life. The tickets are available for $1, $2, $5, and $10 per play.

As of September 2013, the lottery has raised more than $3 billion to support education programs. Lottery dollars support teachers’ salaries in grades K-3, school construction and repair projects, prekindergarten programs for at-risk four-year-olds, need-based college scholarships and financial aid and digital learning initiatives.

To see how more than $6.6 million in lottery dollars have made a difference in Northampton County, go to the Where the Money Goes webpage at http://www.nc-educationlottery.org/beneficiary.aspx.