0

The real spirit of Christmas in action

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Keisha Jones knows the support a caring community can give.

The shy, 31-year-old mother of five, said as much on Tuesday, as she waited to receive a gift-offering of clothes and food for her children, at Shiloh Baptist Church in McDonough.

The event was the latest in a chest of support Jones has received since her move to McDonough from Riviera Beach, Fla., in August.

"This was a big move for me," she said. "Living in Florida, I was there by myself. It was really hard, and I was having a hard time."

Aware of the anemic economy, and with little money in-hand, she said she made a hard decision to move in with relatives.

"It's kind of hard, but I did it for my kids," she said.

She sat quietly in the Education Center at Shiloh, as other families did, waiting their turn to receive - among other things - food, clothes, and shoes.

Her family was among the dozens of needy families accepting hefty donations provided by the Two-Five Sports Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by church member, Fernando Bryant, a professional football player. Bryant is a defensive back for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He, his wife, Amber, and their son, Fernando, II, joined members of the community in handing out gifts -$10,000 worth of clothes, and $3,000 worth of food - to the area's needy families. Bryant said it is the first of what he hopes will be an annual event to support needy families during the holidays.

Keisha Jones was appreciative. "Kids are so hard on shoes these days, and I really can't afford shoes right now," said Jones, whose 12-year-old son now wears a size 8 1/2.

She said the shoes gotten from the foundation should go a long way for her children, whom, she added, will now have an adequate Christmas.

"They have enough for Christmas, thanks to family," Jones said. "They have a few items. Some people don't have that. So, I can't complain. It's been good. It's just a grateful thing. I'm blessed and thankful, honestly.

"It's really good for the community," she said. "I wish I could give back. Everybody is not fortunate. He's blessed, so he's blessing others. Five or 10 years from now, hopefully, I'll be able to something like this."

Bryant, born and raised in Albany, Ga., is a member of Shiloh Baptist Church and has lived in the area for the past eight years. A 10-year veteran of the National Football League, he said he has been unable to contribute fully to the community, having obligations in other cities with various NFL teams.

"This is the first time that I'm able to give back to the community that I live in," Bryant said. "My biggest thing around this time of year is letting my family know that we're blessed."

Jessica Dawson believes she is equally blessed, as a recipient of the Bryant's foundation. The McDonough resident sat with her one-year-old son, Jaiveon. She was patient-yet-anxious to receive shoes for her children.

"I think it's a good thing to give back to the community," Dawson said. "It's my first time being a part of something where a person of his status gives back to the community."

What she received Tuesday will become a part of her children's Christmas. The mother of four said she continues to try to make ends meet, now working short hours at a local fast food restaurant.

"My mother passed recently, and she was my support and my backbone," Dawson said. "She helped me out a lot. This will help me out a lot."

Dozens of families were served on Tuesday, through the foundation and church.

"We think that's a very wonderful thing that will help the kids," said Mary Rolle, a long-time member of Shiloh. "I'm thankful that he's able to do it. It's a blessing that he's able to do this."

Said Fernando Bryant: "It's really something I thought, with the way things are, I needed to do. It's our responsibility to make sure our community is what it should be. It's our responsibility to make sure there are opportunities for the next generation.

"It feels good," he said. "This will probably be an annual thing here, with me, my family, and the church."