Anthony Catalfamo Jr. (from left), Alexes Catalfamo, Victoria Catalfamo, 8, Rosalie Catalfamo, 4, and Vanessa Morales, 15, at their home in Everett. A family used to downfalls finally hit a windfall. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Anthony Catalfamo Jr. (from left), Alexes Catalfamo, Victoria Catalfamo, 8, Rosalie Catalfamo, 4, and Vanessa Morales, 15, at their home in Everett. A family used to downfalls finally hit a windfall. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

$200,000 scratch ticket softens the blow of family hardship

It will cover medical bills and buy a first vacation for an Everett family that was homeless six months.

EVERETT — A head of cabbage led to a heap of cash.

What’s up with that?

Alexes Catalfamo stopped at a Safeway in Auburn for cabbage after a medical visit for a spinal injection. Cabbage was the only thing she needed for her dinner recipe. She figured it was easier to get it there before making the long drive back to Everett, especially with her aching back.

But you know how it is, you can’t just walk out of a grocery store with just one thing. You’re lucky to walk out with 10 things.

Alexes splurged on a $10 “The Game of Life” scratch ticket.

After that, it was the home, dinner, play-with-the-kids routine with husband Anthony, who’s in bed before the sun goes down. His Boeing shift starts at 5:18 a.m.

It wasn’t until later Alexes remembered the ticket. She scratched — and she screamed.

The prize was $200,000.

Nobody got much sleep that night.

The Washington’s Lottery scratch ticket is based on the more than 150-year-old board game by that name where players traverse the twists and turns of jobs, marriage, children and such trappings of Life.

This is a family more used to downfalls than windfalls in their own game of life.

The first half of 2018, the couple and three daughters, ages 4, 8 and 15, shared a room in a family shelter in Everett.

The parents slept in the bottom of a bunk bed, the kids on top. They shared a kitchen and bathroom with other families.

The shelter was their only option. “We got evicted because we fell behind in rent. It was just me working and she had her hurt back,” said Anthony, 40. They’d been living in Auburn and he commuted to the Everett Boeing plant.

Alexes, 35, has chronic back pain that two surgeries didn’t fix. Her medical bills mounted. He earned too much for public assistance.

They stayed at the Everett shelter for six months.

The couple thought they hit the jackpot in July 2018 when, with VA housing support, they moved into an apartment at a new complex in south Everett.

The digs off I-5 had a playground for the girls and was a quick drive to work for Anthony.

He’s a warehouse worker at Boeing.

“I package the supplies up in briefcases so the assemblers can bring it to the plane and build planes,” he said. “It soothes my OCD pretty well. I like being organized. It’s like playing with parts. I get to make Lego kits for the guys to build bigger Legos.”

As with many families, they’d been living paycheck-to-paycheck. He often worked overtime.

“Every time we try to start saving up a little money, something happens,” Anthony said.

If there’s any extra, Alexes gets a few scratch tickets.

And such was the case on that day in August when she went to her Auburn doctor for a regular spinal infusion.

Then she stopped for cabbage … and the next morning they were at the regional lottery office, wondering if it was all a dream.

She got a check for $152,000, after 24% was withheld for taxes.

The couple plan to pay off debts and save enough so they will never be homeless again.

“This is probably the greatest thing that ever happened to us. We have been pretty far down so we’re very humbled,” Anthony said. “We are very thankful.”

They bought a 2013 Honda Accord to replace their 1997 Ford Expedition junker.

Anthony, who is from New York, served four years in the Air Force and another four years in the Navy. He’s now in the Army National Guard. The couple met online 10 years ago and moved to Auburn, where she lived.

They’ve never had a family vacation. They want to take a Disney cruise.

“Part of why we didn’t blow all the money away is because we’ve just had so many things happen. We want to be prepared,” Alexes said. “It’s a big safety net so we can pay off our bills. We’d like to buy a house.”

Turns out the Safeway at 101 Auburn Way S. where Alexes bought the ticket has made the annual top 10 list of “Luckiest Stores” to buy scratch tickets three times in recent years. Washington’s Lottery bases the list on the number of scratch tickets sold with prices of over $1,000.

There were 2.2 million tickets printed for “The Game of Life.” The odds of winning a prize, starting at $10, are 1-in-3.

There’s still one more $200,000 winning ticket out there …

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

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