Green Bay Packers linebacker and 2016 Pop Warner Humanitarian Award winner Samuel Barrington teamed up with a small but mighty group of volunteers and community leaders to take the “First Step” in creating a better, stronger and more cohesive community in Fort Pierce, Florida and Barrington’s hometown, Jacksonville, Florida.
The First Step program began humbly with Scott Van Duzer, a local pizza shop owner, and St. Lucie County Sherriff Ken Mascara visiting an abandoned playground in the Garden Terrace neighborhood of Fort Pierce, known for its high violence and crime rates. The pair brought a football, a few friends and a few pizzas—asking only for the company of their neighbors. Before long, Van Duzer and Mascara were joined by dozens of local kids of all ages and other community members.
Since the First Step program began last year, crime rates in the area have plummeted and the relationship between law enforcement officers and the community has improved tremendously. “Statistics recently released show crime rates in the community have dropped nearly fifty percent,” said Van Duzer.
These positive results have numerous NFL players joining Barrington in supporting the First Step program. Michael Thomas of the Miami Dolphins, Jared Cook of the Green Bay Packers, Jeremy Mincey of the Dallas Cowboys, Coty Sensabaugh of the Los Angeles Rams, and Jonathan Meeks of the Buffalo Bills have all committed to helping take the First Step to the national level. This event started off with a free event Saturday June 11th at Justina Road Elementary School Park in Barrington’s hometown Jacksonville Florida, continuing the cohesive community message that started the program.
NFL players like Barrington have taken notice and continue to take the “first steps” to expanding the reach of this program, producing more cohesive and supportive communities all across the country.
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