Warrick Dunn Helps Find Homes For the Holidays

Warrick Dunn
ST. PETERSBURG -

Warrick Dunn hasn't played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in five years. But he's become a fixture in the community by helping single mothers buy their own homes.

His Homes for the Holidays program provides the down payment on a home and arranges furnishings for single mothers who are in non-profit based home ownership programs.

One of this year's recipients is Roslynn Kearney, whose three children, including daughter Jenetta, now have rooms of their own.

JENETTA: Yes! I got my room! Oh my goodness it's my own room! Yes, yes, yes! I'm so happy!

Kearney became eligible for the home in mid-town St. Petersburg by working with St. Petersburg Neighborhood Housing Services. The agency provides financial counseling for first-time home buyers and helps them arrange for a mortgage. In the end, instead of a diploma, graduates like Kearney receive a welcome financial obligation.

KEARNEY: Now I pay a monthly mortgage payment, not rent, that is wonderful. That means a lot when I make my first mortgage payment.

Her 1,600-square foot, 4-bedroom, 2-bath home is unique in its construction. You can't tell by looking at it, but the house was built using four metal shipping containers.

Ray Price is the Interim Director of Housing Development for St. Petersburg Neighborhood Housing Services.

PRICE: The shipping containers are what we like to call ISBUs, which is intermodal steel building units. They form the exterior walls and we then use metal framing to do the interior and then we put trusses on and we have a nice home.

Price says the home is actually a little more expensive to build this way, but it makes for a stronger structure.

Dunn has been helping single mothers settle into new homes since he began his professional football career with the Buccaneers 10 years ago. All together, he has helped 67 families in the Tampa Bay area, his home town of Baton Rouge, and Atlanta, where he now plays for the Falcons. He says his efforts reflect an appreciation for the struggles single mothers face in raising a family. Dunn has first-hand experience. He and his five siblings were raised by a single mother. She was a Baton Rouge police officer who was killed in the line of duty when Dunn was in high school.

DUNN: If my mom wouldn't have passed away, I probably wouldn't be doing this. So, it's kind of a blessing from God, in the sense that my mom's life was taken away, and a few years later, four years later, then this was like a birth, a rebirth for her.

For Kearney, the joys of home ownership are just beginning. She says there's plenty of living to be done and memories ahead for her and her children in the home. But the first order of business, she says is a little relaxation.

KEARNEY: We are going to sleep in our own beds! I don't have to have the kids sleep with anyone. We're basically going to rest. And cook!

Two other families moved into homes through Dunn's Homes for the Holidays program this year - One in Tampa and one in Clearwater.

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