Trading shoulder pads for shovels, six members of the Green Bay Packers teamed with volunteers from the United Way of Brown County to put the final touches on a renovation project at the local Boys & Girls Club, Tuesday.
The project was part of the NFL's 'Hometown Huddle' campaign -- a collection of hands-on volunteer projects implemented simultaneously on a single Tuesday in different NFL cities across the country.
The Boys & Girls Club, which serves over 5,000 members in the Green Bay area between ages 10-18 and has installed programs at 10 after-school sites, recently renovated and expanded its west-side location.
Tuesday, Packers players Najeh Davenport, Donald Driver, Paris Lenon, Craig Nall, Grey Ruegamer and Marcus Wilkins were there to help with the finishing touches assisting the volunteers and kids with painting the gym and installing new landscaping outside the center.
"It's so exciting to see the Packers involved with the United Way and to be involved with this project," said Nicole Hoffman, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club. "Just seeing them interact with the kids and seeing the kids' excitement and having the players show interest in them is just amazing."
Although the emphasis was on new paint and landscaping, the full impact of an event such as this cannot be measured.
"A lot of the kids here today have had their share of problems in school. They're just trying to make it," Lenon said about the students from the Chance for Change program, a partnership between the Boys & Girls Club, Green Bay Public Schools and the NWTC Alternative High School program, which uses the Boys & Girls Club facilities.
"My experience growing up was definitely similar to some of theirs. I went through some of the same things. Fortunately enough, I had people on my side that were pushing me to continue to get my education and to go on to college.
"These kids have a chance to do that. They just need people in their corner to keep pushing them in the right direction and I think that the Boys & Girls Club definitely does that."
For 30 years the NFL and United Way have been working together to build stronger communities. Since 1974, more than 1,000 NFL-United Way television messages have aired -- marking the longest-running public service ad campaign in television history.
Tania Spofford, director of brand management for United Way, presented Driver -- the 2002 recipient of the NFL's Walter Payton Man Of The Year Award, which recognizes off-the-field community service as well as playing excellence -- with an appreciation award as the United Way spokesperson for 2003.
"It's a great feeling," Driver said. "Walter Payton did so much in the community when he was in Chicago and I want to follow in his footsteps and do those things here in Green Bay. He was a leader on and off the field and that's the same thing that I want to do as long as I'm playing football."
From such high-profile individuals, every little bit helps.
"The NFL brings a lot of attention but it really helps to bring awareness that they're not only good players on the field, but they also get involved in their communities where they are playing," Spofford said. "I think that's important too. They have helped to bring awareness to the United Way and the Boys & Girls Club and I think it's a good partnership."
The project was sponsored by Willems Landscaping, Tim Robertson Painting and Lorries Hometown Cafe' & Catering with paint donated by Hallman-Lindsay Quality Paints.