Warrick Is Still Giving Back

By Chip Osowski
Updated: December 9, 2009

Warrick Dunn

Warrick Dunn

FLORIDA — April Harrelson knew she was getting the keys to her new home Tuesday, but she had no idea everything she needed to furnish it would be included, right down to the toothbrushes.

“I’m blessed.” Harrelson said. “I feel so blessed.”

The mother of three is among the latest to benefit from Warrick Dunn’s Homes for the Holidays program.

Dunn, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back, partners each year with Habitat for Humanity to build or refurbish homes for single-parent families and provide down-payment assistance for first-time home ownership.

Harrelson was one of two recipients Tuesday. She was set up in a three-bedroom home on Patti Lane in Dade City. Rashawn Harris, a single dad raising 6-year-old daughter Alexia, will move into a house on Neil Street in Plant City.

Dunn’s foundation provided $20,000 in home furnishings as well as $5,000 down payment for each home.

Harrelson said she and her three children were in awe when they walked into their home. To their right was a fully furnished family room, including a huge flat-screen television. Directly in front were the kitchen and dining area all furnished, including food in the fridge.

Harrelson says she was divorced three years ago, and has since moved from place to place with her sons Brandon, 18, Ethan, 11, and Loghan, 8. She says it has been a difficult time for the family.

“We’ve waited a long time to be settled.” Harrelson said. “And to know that when we come home it is our home and that we don’t have to leave again and we don’t have to move again and we don’t have to worry about someone telling us we have to move.”

Harrelson said her oldest plans to move out soon so the house will be more than enough for her other sons.

Dunn, a former Florida State University star who played in the NFL for 12 seasons, has assisted 90 single parents and 243 children in three states. They include 37 mothers and 100 children in the Tampa Bay area, 25 mothers and 74 children and dependants in his hometown of Baton Rouge, La.; 26 mothers and 64 children and dependants in Atlanta, where he played from 2002 to 2007; and two fathers and five children in Tallahassee and Tampa.

Each year since 1997, single parents who are also first-time homebuyers are nominated by the Dunn’s housing partners and must have completed required prequalification criteria to be eligible for the program. The Warrick Dunn Foundation picks the winners based upon the recipients’ needs and challenges.

Dunn played with the Bucs from 1997 to 2001 and spent a final year with the team in 2008. He said that although he no longer plays football, he still wants to give back to the communities that gave so much to him.

“When I lost my mom, the whole city really got behind my family and taught me and showed me what it means to give back and care for other people,” said Dunn, whose mother, a Baton Rouge police officer, was slain in 1993 while working an off-duty job. “So it’s easy for me to go to a city where I’m living and help other people live better.”