Packers players feel connected to social justice initiatives

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GREEN BAY – Since the NFL began its social justice initiative, the Packers’ players have valued the opportunity to make a difference.

They’ve also appreciated their own organization working with them to pick the places they want to make that impact.

“I’m excited the Packers got behind the causes we’re passionate about,” linebacker Oren Burks said. “They really looked for our guidance and where to give back to the community, so we have a hands-on approach to really solving some issues that we see in our communities.”

The Packers’ five $50,000 donations this year are going to Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Brown County, House of Hope, La Causa, Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, and Sherman Phoenix.

CASA provides abused and neglected children who are under the legal protection of the court system a representative to act on their behalf. Center Corey Linsley and his wife are volunteer advocates for three children, and he referred to the training process – which includes being legally sworn in as an advocate – as “eye-opening” in itself.

“It educated us on so much with the child protective services system and what these kids go through, and what these advocates do in helping these kids,” Linsley said. “You are essentially a voice for the child.

“I think social justice means something different to everybody. The way I’ve thought about it, making a difference with our underprivileged or unfortunate youth in our area spoke to me.”

Other connections are fostered in different ways.

Receiver Geronimo Allison’s humble background is one reason he’s joined forces with House of Hope, a Green Bay shelter providing a safe and stable environment for young homeless parents and their children. The support system is geared toward getting young families safely out on their own again.

“What they do with single mothers to provide shelter, provide opportunities for jobs, and provide opportunities to elevate is amazing,” Allison said. “One of the goals of the organization is to expand, and the blessing of the social justice grant of $50,000 can help House of Hope start that process.”

La Causa is an organization that has already grown, from a bilingual day care center serving the Hispanic population in Milwaukee more than four decades ago to a charter school and early education and care center that serves nearly 800 K-8 students on Milwaukee’s south side.

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee is now seeing an average of 5,000 youth each day for its academic and recreational programs, making it the largest youth-serving agency in Milwaukee.

Burks’ specific attachment is to Sherman Phoenix, which he learned about as a rookie last year along with former teammate and Milwaukee native Lance Kendricks.

In college at Vanderbilt, Burks also was interested in social enterprise, and the Sherman Phoenix Project supports small businesses-of-color, through mentorship and coaching, amongst its efforts to transform the eastern gateway to the Sherman Park neighborhood in Milwaukee.

“They were literally rising from the ashes,” Burks said of the new businesses in the area, which are helping to support the local economy. “It’s just empowering to see how they put their work together and have something come from basically nothing.

“I’m excited to see what they do down there.”

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