Originally created 11/28/02

Falcons' Dunn helps single moms buy first home



ATLANTA -- Warrick Dunn's mother was never able to buy her own home.

She was a single mother, working as a police officer in Baton Rouge, La., when she was killed in the line of duty. Dunn was only 18 at the time, the eldest of her six children.

To honor her, the Falcons running back is helping four single mothers from the Atlanta area become first-time homeowners.

Dunn presented each woman with $5,000 Tuesday for a down payment on a new home. He also made sure the homes were filled with new furniture, washers and dryers, entertainment centers - and all the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner.

The gifts were made through Dunn's "Home for the Holidays" project, which he started in 1997 when he played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So far, Dunn's program has helped 38 single mothers in Tampa, Baton Rouge and now Atlanta.

"I don't know what to say," Keisha Hill said while touring her new home with her 15-year-old son Brandon and 13-year-old daughter Kanatheia. "My heart is beating so fast. This is a blessing truly from God."

The women in Atlanta were chosen from various first-time homebuyer programs. Each one had expected to close on their homes in early December, relying on their own resources.

But Dunn, 27, stepped in to choose four single mothers.

"I just go with the feeling I get. I look at every aspect of their situation and I choose," Dunn said. "It makes you thankful that you're able to help them live a better life. Most people in this country can't afford the down payment, but can afford to rent or pay the mortgage on a house."

This year, Spiegel Catalog donated $50,000 to furnish the four Atlanta homes and Home Depot committed $500 per home for tools, lawn equipment and other items.

"These homes are decked out more than we've ever done them. They're designer homes," said Stephanie Waller, executive director of the Warrick Dunn Foundation in Tampa.

Dunn's maternal grandmother, Willie Wheeler of Baton Rouge, who raised Dunn's siblings after his mother's death, also was involved in this year's project. She cooked Thanksgiving dinner for everyone involved - 125 people in all.