A model for rich, famous

Published: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Words like "celebrity" and "star" really ought to be reserved for folks like former Tampa Bay Buccaneer running back Warrick Dunn.

Over the past decade, while many highly paid athletes, entertainers and other famous people have behaved like spoiled brats and squandered much of their public good will, Dunn has steadily, generously built a program to help single mothers attain homes of their own.

Dunn, who now plays for the Atlanta Falcons, has so far assisted 67 mothers and 171 children in the Tampa Bay and Atlanta regions and in his hometown of Baton Rouge, La.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, Dunn wants to expand his program to Tallahassee, where he starred for the Florida State Seminoles.

Dunn screens applications and tries to focus on women who, as a spokeswoman for his foundation told the Times, "are really doing everything they can within their means to make a plan for their future."

For Dunn, the foundation's work is part of a very personal mission. His own mother, a police officer, was shot and killed while working a second job as a security guard. She was trying to save money to buy a house for herself and her six children.

With his own money and contributions from the business community, Dunn provides a $5,000 down payment for a house, fills it with furniture and appliances and even stocks the refrigerator.

Dunn recently commissioned a study to see how the families are faring and to determine if adjustments should be made to the program, according to the Times.

Some families have struggled to keep up with mortgage payments, and one of them lost its house, but many are doing well.

Of course, many wealthy athletes and celebrities make extraordinary contributions to their communities. But all too often, people who enjoy enormous success in life — in business, sports, entertainment and other fields — lose perspective and forget the acts of kindness, small and large, that helped them get where they are.

Dunn clearly hasn't forgotten.

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