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Happily in a home for holidays

Warrick Dunn played Santa Claus once again Tuesday. The Atlanta Falcons running back came to the bay area to surprise three single mothers with thousands of dollars worth of assistance on their way to home ownership.

Dunn's Homes for the Holidays program was responsible for the shrieks of joy behind the wreath-covered door at 874 15th Ave. S.

For 13-year-old Jenetta, it was the fulfillment of a treasured wish. "Yes! I got my own room. Yes! Yes! Yes! I'm so happy,'' she said as she bounced into her lilac room.

"You like that color?'' Dunn asked. "Yes,'' she nodded.

Ibryanna, 9, would no longer be in the way when her sister's friends visited. Her room, fit for a princess, was swathed in pink. Carlton, 14, the oldest and a high school football player with dimples, smiled at the sight of his own space decorated in grownup blue.

Mom, Roslynn Kearney, 30, was excited about everything, the stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, the full refrigerator and the fully furnished dining and living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms. There was even a lawn mower in the garage. "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus,'' she said as she entered her master suite.

Kearney was a prime candidate for nomination to the Warren Dunn Foundation program, said Askia Muhammad Aquil, executive director of St. Petersburg Neighborhood Housing Services. Dunn's foundation assists single mothers with sponsor Prudential Tropical Realty and in-kind sponsor Aaron's Sales & Lease Ownership.

Kearney earned her GED in 1995, and now has A.A. and A.S. degrees from St. Petersburg College. She hopes to earn a bachelor's degree in a year or so. "I feel like education is power,'' said Kearney, who works as a student services assistant at St. Petersburg College.

In its 10th year, Dunn's foundation has helped 67 single mothers and 171 children and dependents. "To make a contribution to someone's life, that doesn't get old,'' he said Tuesday.

Kearney and her children will move into their fully furnished home next week. "I'm still pinching myself, saying, 'Is this real?' '' she said.