Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gridiron Giving: the Warrick Dunn Family Foundation

You will hear many times this week and throughout the holiday season that this is a time to reflect on all the things we have to be thankful for. Every month of the year, my husband and I reflexively cringe when we check our bank account online and see the debit for our mortgage payment. In the next breath, though, we admit to be thankful that we have a mortgage to pay and that we have been able to keep through these lean times.

Thanks to the Warrick Dunn Family Foundation, this is also a monthly ritual for over one hundred single parents who might not otherwise have been able to realize the dream of home ownership.

Warrick Dunn is a retired NFL running back who played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons. Along with his five siblings, Dunn was raised by his mother, Betty Smothers, who served the city as a police officer and worked as a security officer during her off-hours to support her family on her own as a single mother. Unfortunately, Betty's life was tragically cut short when she was shot in an armed robbery during her off-duty shift. At eighteen years old, Dunn became the head of the house and took on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings. Smothers was never able to realize her dream of owning a home, but the outpouring of support from the Baton Rouge community enabled Dunn to realize those dreams for her.

Inspired by these experiences, Dunn established the Homes for the Holidays program in Tampa in 1997; the organization followed him to Atlanta and is now administered through the Warrick Dunn Family Foundation, which serves families in Atlanta, Tampa, Tallahassee (where he attended Florida State University) and Baton Rouge.  Last December, the Foundation achieved the incredible milestone of filling their 100th home! 

The goal of the Foundation is not just to give homes to deserving single parents, but to help those parents achieve financial independence. It achieves this mission by helping those single parents who are employed and raising their family without public assistance, but who are just not able to save the money for a down payment. The Foundation carries them that final distance by providing funds toward that down payment; with this hurdle out of the way, the family will have their own mortgage, which they will pay from their own funds.  When the family moves in to their fully furnished home, they will also receive necessities for maintaining the home—e.g., appliances, kitchen supplies, etc. This is truly a hand up, not a handout.

If you’re inspired by Warrick Dunn’s story and his Foundation, I encourage you to visit the Foundation’s website at You can see pictures of some of the recipient families, read stories of home presentations and subscribe to the Foundations e-newsletter, “The Foyer.” You can also learn about the ways you can help, like sponsoring a room for a presentation. People in Atlanta and Tampa can also participate in their annual golf tournaments and other activities.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about the Warrick Dunn Family Foundation. I hope it inspires you to find your own way of giving back, and to let any single parents in your life know how much they are appreciated for their hard work and the sacrifices they make for their families.

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