Most professional football players can’t stand to be out of the spotlight. Warrick Dunn has a hard time being in it. But then again, he’s not most football players. The fantastic Florida State footballer turned Atlanta Falcons phenom has continued scoring points in life long after he stopped scoring on the field.
During his 12 seasons in the NFL, Dunn played for Tampa Bay as well as with the Falcons and earned three Pro Bowl selections. While he was working on his athletic endeavors, he was also working on giving back, too.
In 1997, the same year he was drafted, Dunn established the Homes for the Holidays program, to help single parents achieve the goal of owning a home. The program is part of the not-for-profit Warrick Dunn Charities, which is headquartered in Midtown Atlanta. It was created as a tribute to his mother, Betty Smothers, a Baton Rouge police officer who was tragically ambushed and killed before being able to realize her dream of home ownership.
In the last 20 years, Homes for the Holidays has rewarded 155 single parents and 419 children and dependents across the country, including a home makeover for an Alpharetta family. Through this initiative, Warrick Dunn Charities provides down payment assistance to single parents who have purchased a home through Habitat for Humanity. With presenting sponsor Aaron’s, Inc. Warrick Dunn Charities provides furniture for every room in the home, as well as other necessities such as a fully-stocked pantry and lawn and garden equipment!
Lifestyle Publications recently sat down with Warrick Dunn to hear more about his philanthropy work and what keeps him going in his post-NFL life.
AL: After 20 years, what keeps you going?
WD: People. The people I’m able to impact and help keep me going. Not everyone has a fair shot at life and to be able to assist people who are helping themselves is really something. We are giving people a hand up, not a handout. Years ago, I was one of those kids who needed some help. I understand what people go through. I want to impact the community in a way that is life changing. I hope we are doing that now. But we can always do more. The biggest thing I ask myself though, “Is it enough?”
AL: What’s next for Warrick Dunn Charities?
WD: The goal is to keep growing. I want to grow our programming to continue to help position the kids we serve for a better future. We must show kids that there’s greater opportunity and experiences out there for them. We must bring them hope so they want to be better as students, knowing they can become anything they want. We must give them a safe, secure environment so they can dream of a better life. Hopefully, they can realize those dreams and then they can turn around and help others when they are older.
AL: What does it mean for you to be able to give back through your charity?
WD: Celebrating 20 years of the Homes for the Holidays program in November means a lot to me. The fact that I can support people, to help them with their dreams and vision, is very special. I continue to have the drive after all these years because I know what the community did for me when I needed it. I will continue to figure out a way to help people as long as I’m able to do so.