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Local football stars give back for holidays

MANATEE — Annette Carey has been jobless for four months.

Carey has two grandsons she’s trying to provide for. The Thanksgiving holiday is approaching and before Tuesday, the 51-year-old had no clue where her family’s holiday meal would come from.

Thanks to The Cornerback Connection and the Feed The Children Foundation, an international relief organization, and volunteers from various local agencies, Carey was among 400 households that received boxes of food and personal items for the Thanksgiving season at DeSoto Square mall Tuesday.

Carey stood by her three boxes beaming with joy as she waited for a ride home.

“I think it’s great, because my money situation is messed up right now,” said Carey, who’s adopting her grandsons, ages 8 and 10. “I think it’s wonderful that they are looking out for people and their kids. It’s really tough. I can’t get a job, and I’ve been looking for a job.”

Fabian Washington (Baltimore Ravens), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Arizona Cardinals) and Mike Jenkins (Dallas Cowboys) all played high school football in Manatee County and now are starting cornerbacks in the NFL. The three were reared in single-parent households and understand the struggles of their local community.

That’s why the title of the event, “Bringing Families Together and Impacting A Community,” is fitting for three players who “made it.”

“Bradenton is a small city and not a lot of people ever have something,” said Rodgers-Cromartie, who recently started the DRC Foundation.

“I had people around me who thought about putting this together with Mike Jenkins and Fabian Washington and we made it happen. Peter (Warrick) did this when I was young. I told myself if I ever got to this situation that I was going to bless others.”

About 50 volunteers from the State College of Florida men’s basketball team, Shining Light Church of God In Christ, Empowerment Christian Ministries, Mount Mariah Missionary Baptist Church and Florida Sheriff Youth Boys Ranch were on hand passing out boxes filled with non-perishable goods like canned vegetables, stuffing, crackers, toiletries and Avon products.

“We’ve got three guys that made it,” said Jonathan Styles, one of the organizers of the event and president and director of Washington’s Franchise Kids Foundation. “They struggled, made it and now they are reaching back and want to do this every year. But we need these companies in this area like Tropicana, Champs (Sports) and Bealls to get involved with us. We need these businesses to get behind what these guys are trying to do.”

Oliver Freeman is thankful for the donations.

Freeman was a driver for a local vinyl business and was laid off in March. He has three young sons depending on him for Thanksgiving dinner.

“I think this is something that we need,” said Freeman, 48. “It crosses all color barriers and all color lines. It’s something that’s needed based on the economy. Most of us would definitely love to work and provide for our families, but we have to face reality.”

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