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Yes, West Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Andrew "Jack" Whittaker stepped forward to claim his millions Thursday.

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A 55-year-old West Virginia grandfather has been verified as the sole winner of the national Powerball lottery worth $314.9 million (December 26)
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HURRICANE, West Virginia (CNN) -- Andrew "Jack" Whittaker, a 55-year-old grandfather and owner of several construction companies will take home $111.7 million in cash for winning Christmas night's Powerball lottery drawing.

Whittaker, from Scott Depot, West Virginia, is the largest single-ticket winner in international lottery history. He said Thursday that his first three checks will be written to three church pastors. As a member of the Church of God, he said he wants to tithe 10 percent before he spends any of the money.

"I'm very blessed. I've been blessed my whole life," Whittaker said. "It's really going to excite my daughter and granddaughter. They're going to be spending the money."

The advertised jackpot amount was $314.9 million but Whittaker chose the cash payout instead of annual payments.

The lump sum is more than $170 million before federal and state taxes are taken out. He received a $10 million check Thursday and will receive the balance of his winnings -- $101.7 million -- in two weeks, as required by Multi-State Lottery rules.

"I just want to thank God for letting the machine pick the right numbers," Whittaker said.

Whittaker is already a self-made millionaire. His construction companies generate $17 million a year in revenue, he said.

"I'm going to take care of my family and I'm going to expand my business," he said. Whittaker recently laid off 25 employees because of slow business but he said he will bid on more jobs to put those employees back to work.

He's leaving for New York on Thursday and will appear on several television talk shows Friday morning, he said. He may move to a gated community for privacy but hopes to keep his life the same.

The winning numbers for the Christmas drawing were 53, 14, 5, 16 and 29, with a Powerball number of 7.

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