Jaguars help HabiJax

The sun's rays reflected off the metal hammer in Robbie Bacon's hand as she prepared to swing at a nail. She and a host of new friends were working on the exterior siding to the house she will occupy this coming fall.

"My home is getting built and I'm so excited and happy they are helping me build my house," she said as she talked about the Jaguars and HabiJax volunteers nearby.

Recently the Jaguars' annual HabiJax build team, consisting of front office staff, players and ROAR cheerleaders, pitched in to help. They invested sweat and heaving lifting to help Bacon, a Jacksonville mother of two, see her dreams of owning a home come one step closer to becoming a reality.

"We're trying to build somebody a house and having fun doing it. Coming from a small town in Louisiana it's a joy just to help somebody build their first house," said tight end Brian Jones, first time builder on the Jaguars build team.

"The owner is out here and you just look at her face and you can tell that she's so happy…it's just a pleasure to help out," he added.

Ms. Bacon found out about HabiJax through a friend who encouraged her to apply. After hearing more about the organization she felt she would be a good candidate for this program. And now here she is on her way to becoming a first time homeowner. "I just went and applied for it and here I am," she explained.

There are several requirements Bacon must meet before taking up residence in her new home. One is that she must invest a minimum of 300 hours of labor, called "sweat equity," into the construction of her home and other HabiJax homes.

Out with the rest of them, Robbie was getting her hands dirty.

The Jaguars have been loyal friends to HabiJax by sponsoring over 133 houses totaling $459,500 since 2001. HabiJax is the largest affiliate homebuilder within the Habitat for Humanity organization and continues to make progress through the tireless efforts of countless volunteers. Also, the Delores Barr Weaver Golf Tournament is a proud supporter, sponsoring 55 houses totaling $1,870,000 since its inception in 1996.

"We just want to give back what the community gives us," said offensive linemen Derrick Fletcher, also a first time builder on the Jaguars build team. "They support us on the football field and we want to come back and support them…I'm having a great time out here today with a few of my teammates and volunteers…this is awesome."

"Anything we can do to help HabiJax out…it's a great organization," said long snapper Joe Zelenka. "The opportunity is to help people build houses, homes and dreams and lives."

The team couldn't have asked for a better day. The weather was perfect and everyone involved felt it was very much worth the hard work it entailed. As the build team arrived at the site they came upon a lot with only a concrete foundation. They literally put up the exterior frame to the house and covered the exterior walls.

"It is wonderful working with the homeowner and volunteers," said Theresa "Tre" Codenschatz, team leader coordinator with HabiJax. "Everyone is in such a great mood and on the day when the homeowner moves in and she's crying, they're happy and they are just so excited to get their house."

"It really makes you feel you have a sense of community around here when people from the community come out and we work on these houses," she added.

Coming off the heels of mini camp held the week before the build, wide receivers coach Steve Walters was able to sneak away from the X's and O's of football strategy to help.

"It's a beautiful day and it's a good feeling to try to help somebody out…it's a very worthy cause," Walters said.

"Sure you like to be able to help in the community when you can…during the season we have no time do things like this, but in the off-season we have some time that we can share and help in the community," he added.

As the day came to an end, the volunteers walked away with a smile, but not before they each signed their names to the frame of the house. Some would call it leaving a lasting impression for Robbie and her family to remember for a long time to come.

The mission of HabiJax (Habitat for Humanity of Jacksonville, Inc.) is to eliminate poverty and substandard housing conditions in Duval County by working in cooperation with God's people in need, without regard to race or religion, to create a better habitat in which to live and work.

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