Forget the FTD, dinner out or Hallmark card sentiments. Mother's Day came early this week and in a big way for three single women, including an east Pasco mother of five.
Tampa Bay Buccaneer running back Warrick Dunn surprised Christine Bonilla and her five children Tuesday morning with a $5,000 check, plus furnishings, electronics, and a stocked pantry at their new home in Dade City built through East Pasco Habitat for Humanity. Bonilla and her family knew the home belonged to them. They donated 400 hours of sweat equity to the structure, but the interior furniture, amenities, and check for the down payment was unexpected. Dunn made similar gifts Tuesday to a pair of single mothers in Tampa, both of whom are raising two children.
Bonilla's home marked the first venture to east Pasco for Dunn's Homes for the Holidays program, which has helped 77 single parents and 201 children and dependents in Tampa Bay, Tallahassee, Atlanta and Baton Rouge, La., over the past 11 years.
Dunn is familiar with the rigors of parental responsibility. He became a father figure to five siblings after his mother, a Baton Rouge police officer and single parent, was murdered while working off-duty as a security guard. He started the program to honor his mother and to assist people he says demonstrate a desire to achieve stability and financial independence.
In addition to Dunn and his corporate sponsors, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the role of East Pasco Habitat for Humanity in bringing affordable housing to deserving people. The chapter recently dedicated the 50th home built over its 15-year existence and promised to build 50 more over the next five years. It is an aggressive goal, but also indicates what can be accomplished by those willing to share their time, energy and good will.
Dunn's work mirrors that intention, showing a willingness to give back to others and the sense of responsibility that accompanies personal success. It is a refreshing contrast to those who abuse their status. Just think of one of east Pasco's own, former NFL player Troy Hambrick, as a sad reminder. He awaits federal sentencing after admitting to selling 78 grams of crack cocaine in Dade City in September 2007.
Perhaps some day Dunn will ask another new homeowner in Pasco, as he did Bonilla, "Do you know who I am?'' And the appropriate response will be easy to identify:
Yes, you are the personification of the word "community" and we're glad you're part of ours.