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Warrick Dunn charities addresses affordable housing with 155th recipient
ST. PETERSBURG – Keyona Thompson knew that being accepted into Pinellas County’s Habitat for Humanity homeowner program would mean the dream of homeownership for her family of seven. What she did not expect was to be the 155th recipient of the Warrick Dunn Charities Homes for the Holiday program.
Founded by former NFL all-pro running back Warrick Dunn, the nonprofit helps single parents and dependents purchase their first home by offering additional down payment assistance, personalized furnishings and ensuring pre-qualification courses, such as personal finance and mortgage classes.
On April 6, Thompson and her six dependent children—three of whom have medical or mental disabilities—walked through the front door of their new home where they were greeted by friends and family in addition to members of Habitat, Publix Super Markets Charities and Warrick Dunn.
The six-bedroom, two-bathroom home with wheelchair-friendly accommodations was fully stocked with everything the family needs—from toothbrushes to new beds and living room furniture. The home furnishings are made possible by the collaboration between Warrick Dunn Charities and Aaron’s, Inc., who have been partners for more than 14 years.
“I can’t find the words to describe how I feel today,” said Thompson. “It’s an overwhelming feeling to be a first-time homeowner and to have the support of this community. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!”
With 20 years of experience helping single-parent families achieve affordable homeownership, Dunn understands the challenges many families face. He remembers similar obstacles from his childhood as his mother worked to achieve homeownership.
Her dream of homeownership was never achieved, however, for she was murdered while working as an off-duty police officer in Baton Rouge. Dunn parlayed the funds received upon her death into the first home for him and his five siblings.
In her previous home, Thompson not only lacked space for her large family but like many who live on the edge of poverty, the apartment was in substandard condition due to a leaky roof. Despite her long record of successful employment, homeownership was out of reach without help.
Quoting statistics from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Dunn said that one full-time worker earning minimum wage couldn’t afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the U.S.
With the help of partners such as Habitat, Publix and Aaron’s, Warrick Dunn Charities works to help single parents avoid the pitfalls of not only securing homeownership but also understanding the systems around the process.
“Assistance with the down payment means a smaller mortgage; furnishing the home means less credit card debt; stocking the pantry means healthier food choices and having a safe and stable home base improves the lives of not just the family but the community as well,” said Dunn. “And because they are required to learn about personal finance and mortgages, they are educated about how it all works. All of us doing our part helps chip away at the significant problem of affordable housing.”
John Robinson, CEO of Aaron’s, Inc. said they are proud to continue their partnership with Warrick Dunn Charities’ Homes for the Holidays program, which is dedicated to providing single parents like Thompson with homes so they can have a safe and stable space to raise their families.
“Aaron’s has a longstanding tradition of giving back to communities across the country and we’re so pleased that these furnishings will be able to help make a difference in the Thompsons’ lives for years to come,” Robinson said.
Warrick Dunn Charities, Inc. provides hope and healing to communities through innovative programming inspired his life’s journey. The oldest of six children, Dunn’s mother, Betty Smothers, was a single parent police corporal in Baton Rouge who lost her life in 1993 in an ambush at a local bank.
Since 1997, the Homes for the Holidays program has helped 150 single-parents and 405 children and dependents achieve first-time homeownership.