The Falcons and Rooms To Go left the Gwinnett Children's Shelter full of smiling faces last Tuesday after they provided the deserving non-profit agency with a complete makeover.
Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, kicker Matt Bryant, fullback Patrick DiMarco and tackle Lamar Holmes were on-hand to surprise the kids as they returned from school to find their newly renovated rooms.
The shelter serves as a home for children ages 12-18 who have experienced abuse, abandonment or neglect. The children are usually either runaways or have been placed there by the Juvenile Justice or DFCS and stay there as long as they need it, which could be weeks or years.
The staff, who provide the children 365 days of 24-hour care, and the children were kept away from the facility for two days so the renovations could be made, and returned Tuesday to find not only a renovated home but also the Falcons players, Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders and Freddie Falcon waiting there to receive them.
"Anything positive can always help somebody, no matter what they're going through," Weatherspoon said. "These kids, they'll never forget this moment. It's monumental for them – this is something that they'll remember and talk about 10 years from now."
The Falcons and Rooms To Go have been providing makeovers to individual children and their families throughout this entire season, so to culminate the season they decided to choose an entire community shelter to makeover.
Housed in a building that is 16 years old and hadn't seen any type of renovation in as many years, both organizations provided new beds, paint jobs, decorations and furniture to every single bedroom and the recreation rooms.
"It's absolutely crucial to give back to the community," Chief Strategic Officer of Rooms To Go Warren Kornblum said. "Our owner, Jeffrey Seaman, like Arthur Blank on the Falcons side, is very philanthropic, so giving back is just part of our DNA. I think there will be just under 30 kids that will be sleeping in new beds tonight, hopefully getting a little bit of joy in an otherwise challenging life."
Mary Mazarky, Executive Director of the Gwinnett Children's Shelter, repeatedly expressed her gratitude to both organizations for transforming the shelter and providing the children with a place that feels like home, especially during the holidays when the shelter is the only place they have and giving them a reason to smile when they struggle to find one.
"It's an awesome feeling to be able to put a smile on someone's face," Bryant said. "We're very fortunate, living a dream. And these kids, they've had a lot of dreams taken from them. It's great to be able to give back and make things a little more bearable. This isn't a cure-all for their situation but it's a step in the right direction."