The Jets continued to strengthen their involvement in the community last week as they visited Morristown Neighborhood House for the second year in a row.
Neighborhood House was founded in 1898 as a settlement house that helped Italian immigrants become acclimated to their new culture. Since then, the Morristown Neighborhood House Association has expanded and is now a private, multifaceted, non-profit agency that provides childcare and other services for children and their families in the Morristown, N.J., area.
Cornerback Ahmad Carroll, quarterback Brett Ratliff, linebacker Jason Trusnik and offensive lineman Robert Turner were on hand and tossed footballs around with the youngsters before talking to them about being successful in life. The boys and girls excitedly lined up to catch passes from the players, streaking over the Jets emblem that marks the center of the gymnasium – a reminder of the generous contribution toward the refurbishing of the gym that the Jets made a year earlier.
Carroll told the kids that while everyone may not grow up to be professional athletes, being successful in life means finding something you enjoy doing and working hard at it. He also stressed some fundamentals to the kids.
"Listen to your parents. Make your bed. Brush your teeth," he said before making the kids repeat the mantra thrice."
"For the children, anybody that comes to show some special attention to them really means a lot," said Steven Neblett, assistant executive director of Neighborhood House. "But then, when you get a celebrity or a professional football player to come here, it's just extra special. You know, like icing on the cake and something that's forever etched in their minds.
"What it does is it helps reinforce what we try to teach the children in terms of you have to give back to your community. Even when we get the fourth graders to help the third graders, or get the third graders to read stories to the kindergarteners, it's those type of values that we try to instill in the children. Again, this is reinforcement for what we're saying, to actually see people from TV reach back to the community and try to make a difference."
Turner told the kids he was an education major and history minor while in school, and that he has his teaching certificate even though he was pursuing football, stressing the importance of an education.
"I think it's important because we're a part of this community," said Turner. "We're a new family member in this community family, so the more we can get to know them and understand the backgrounds of each individual neighborhood, the better understanding we'll have and maybe the more we can help, whether it's with future community events or fundraisers — anything that we can do to help promote positive things in the community itself."
The excitement was contagious throughout the day. Some kids had even been anticipating the players' second visit since last year.
"We didn't know we had so many kids that actually follow the Jets and watch the games on Sunday, so they were really pumped," said Neblett. "A lot of them also remember when some of the players were here for the ribbon-cutting ceremony almost a year ago today."
"They look up to us as role models, whether it's football or whether it's making it through your education," said Trusnik. "So I like to be a role model for these kids and also it makes me happy. It makes me want to come out here and put smiles on these kids' faces because then in return it puts a smile on my face."
Programs funded by the New York Jets Foundation touch the lives of countless 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 eight years the Jets and their charitable foundation have donated or contributed more than $8 million to promote youth health, fitness and education, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
From fighting childhood obesity through the Generation Jets: Be Lean & Green initiative to launching a football team in a Harlem high school, urging students to eat right and move more, and supporting the efforts of the Alliance for Lupus Research, the New York Jets invest in programs that make a difference in the lives of others. In addition to the Jets Foundation, which supports our own extensive youth initiatives, the Jets partner with numerous established charitable organizations and participate in causes sponsored by the NFL.