When new teammates Drayton Florence, Cleo Lemon and Jerry Porter joined the Jaguars via free agency this past March, they never imagined that their first group session would be building a house.
The three players were among the many Jaguars volunteers who participated in the annual HabiJax home build. The Jaguars have participated in the HabiJax program for over 10 years and are one of the larger sponsors of the community program. HabiJax is the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International and was founded in 1988.
Each year Jaguars players, ROAR cheerleaders and front office staff help to build a house for a local Jacksonville resident. This year's resident, Katrina Platts, was among the two dozen volunteers hammering nails and framing the walls.
Jaguars players and HabiJax veterans Tony Pashos and Joe Zelenka took the lead for the crew, which consisted of two ROAR cheerleaders, eight front office employees and six HabiJax contractors. The two Jaguars players helped show their strength as the group framed the entire 1,300 square foot house located on 28th street in Duval County.
"HabiJax is just a great experience," remarked Zelenka. "I had a whole lot of fun. It's a good time to go outside and build somebody a house that is going to be a home for them. It was good to be out with a couple of the fellas that I don't get to see much – Drayton, Tony and Cleo. We got to get some fellowship in and we got to carry some wood around and hammer some nails. It was fun, easy and sweaty experience and I would recommend it to everyone."
Looking beyond the wood, nails and hammers, Pashos sees the importance of the HabiJax program to the future homeowners.
"I think one of the best achievements that anyone can have is owning your own home," Pashos said. "We are not out there just helping a great cause and helping to build a part of the town; we are also delivering a dream to some people that have never had that. It meant a lot to me to give back."
The mission of HabiJax is to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. HabiJax helps families in need build affordable houses, which they buy at cost with 25-year mortgages, but at no interest - following Biblical principles. These mortgage payments go into a revolving Fund for Humanity that is then used to fund the construction of more homes.
"Many people have hard times and most don't have anyone there to give a helping hand," stated Pashos. "For me, I am more than happy to give it to them. It was great to see that everyone was appreciative for our help, and it was a dream come true."