The children and staff of the Neighborhood House of Morristown, N.J., are now proud owners of a refurbished gymnasium, thanks in large part to the New York Jets.
On Tuesday, Jets players and staff were on hand to help dedicate the revamped multipurpose gym and to donate a check for $85,000 to a packed house of families and friends of the community center. On hand were long snapper/TE James Dearth, DE Sione Pouha, CB Darrelle Revis, LB David Harris, OL Jacob Bender and Dave Szott, the former Jets offensive lineman and current team chaplain.
These Jets representatives volunteered their day off to team up with United Way as part of the NFL's annual Hometown Huddle.
"I think this event is very important. It's for the children," said Dearth, in his seventh season serving the local communities as a Jet. "The NFL is teaming up with the United Way for the Hometown Huddle to promote fitness and a sense of community and that's obviously important for children.
"Hopefully seeing all of this will give the kids hope and show them that NFL players really do care and that people around them care."
Other sponsors for the gymnasium renovations — which is now decorated with a New York Jets logo and green and white lines and walls — are Realogy Corporation and Burgdorff Realtors. These programs have donated or contributed more than $7 million over the last seven years as title sponsors for all Jets community relations programs.
"It's an old gym that was getting a facelift. Let's call it the 'Neighborhood House Gym Makeover,' " said David Walker, executive director of the Neighborhood House. "Our programs start with toddlers and move all the way to middle-school-aged children and adults on weekends, so our gym gets a high amount of usage. And through that usage, it was in a state of disrepair."
The Neighborhood House is a community center that has successfully unified the diverse society of the surrounding Morristown area for more than a century. The house was originally founded to unite the influx of immigrants, the majority of whom were of Italian descent, with the rest of the community in an organized and healthy manner.
Today's professional and volunteer staff of the Neighborhood House welcomes members of all religious and ethnic backgrounds to attend their free educational, recreational and social programs. The Jets, who will be nearby neighbors in Florham Park within two years, have begun to strengthen that concept in their future district.
"By the Jets reaching out to us in this fashion, it reinforces that notion of community," Walker said. "We have the corporate partner in the Jets, a remarkable organization, coming together with an organization that for over 100 years has been committed to unifying the community. Community people coming together — that's what it's all about."
"I think it's important to be here and get to know the people that we're going to be around," Dearth said. "It's good to get a jumpstart on giving back to the community even before we all move out here. We need to show the local residents that the NFL truly does care."
After the donation ceremonies took place, the young girls of the Neighborhood House, clad in homemade green and white Jets cheerleading outfits, put on a choreographed routine on the shiny new surface for the enthusiastic crowd of Jets players, families and friends.
After a rousing ovation, members of the community center played a few games of flag football alongside the Jets players.
"Its great for the kids," said Revis, the Jets' first-round pick in the 2007 draft. "We were just like these kids, in the same position they were in, looking for people to look up to as role models who do positive things. This program is good to help the kids to stay healthy and stay off the streets and just do positive things."
"It's remarkable for the Neighborhood House and for the community," said Walker. "It just shows that the Jets organization has a commitment to our community and to our youth."
About The NFL and United Way:In 1973 the NFL and United Way of America forged a partnership that has become the sports industry's most visible and longest-running public service program, using players and other NFL personalities to promote community service through public service television ads. United Way fundraising has soared from $800 million to $3.91 billion and the NFL–United Way partnership has evolved from a fundraising organization to a community services provider, on programs and services that far surpass the well-known television spots. Teams and their players support the local United Way chapters in their communities year-round through personal appearances, joint programs and campaign contributions.
About United Way of Morris County: United Way is dedicated to helping people and improving the quality of life for all residents. The chapter addresses issues most critical to the future of Morris County by bringing attention, expertise, and resources to them. For more information, visit them on the web at www.uwmorris.org or call (973) 993-1160.
About Morristown Neighborhood House: The mission of the Neighborhood House is to provide families and youth with a community-based support system that will strengthen their ability to cope in today's rapidly changing and complex society by providing a broad range of community services relevant to persons of all ages and from every socio-economic, ethnic and religious background.
About New York Jets, Realogy Corporation and Burgdorff Realtors ERA: Programs funded by the New York Jets Foundation touch the lives of young men and women in the tristate area. Realogy Corporation, a premier global provider of real estate and relocation services, and its subsidiary companies Burgdorff Realtors ERA and Cartus, are title sponsors for all of the Jets' community relations programs. Over the past seven years, the Jets and their charitable foundation have donated or contributed more than $7 million to promote youth health, fitness and education, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
Ten employees from Burgdorff Realtors ERA were on hand to assist with the activities, including Morristown office manager Colette Ravache, vice president of relocation Jane McWilliams, and David Weaving, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Realogy.