JU athletes deliver donations collected for Hurricane Irma victims

Food drive donations help Arlington organization

By Crystal Chen - Assignment editor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Athletes from Jacksonville University are hoping to make the recovery process a little easier for families struggling after Hurricane Irma.

Student-athletes at the university know firsthand that even though Irma has passed, the devastation left behind won’t be as quick to go.

They collected donations and dropped them off Monday to a charity helping storm victims.

“I do have family that lives right down the street, and they were without power for a couple of days and had to survive without some food,” JU football player Jaleel Roberts said.

Roberts' teammate shared a similar story. He has family members who lost everything during hurricanes Katrina and Irma.

“Well my grandma lost her house, my other grandma also lost her house, so I felt for the people because we lost a lot of things,” defensive back Emon Smith said.

Their experiences, combined with the images of loss and destruction from Irma, have fueled the student-athletes' passion to help. 

“They contacted me, saying, 'We’re going to have a food drive. Would you like the food?' Well, duh, that’s a no-brainer. Of course we do,” said Deborah Woods, executive director of Arlington Community Services. “And the players got out as well as some of the staff over there, and it was just wonderful. I mean, my guys didn’t have to do a whole lot because those boys took care of it.”

Arlington Community Services is a charity that helps struggling families in Duval County with financial aid and food. After Irma, the center saw a 50 percent increase of families in need. With supplies running low, Woods said the food drive came just in time.

After just one game, the JU football team was able to collect over 500 pounds of food. At $1.50 per pound, that adds up to $750 worth of donations.

“I mean, that’s a really good day,” Woods said. “We never have a day like that.”

Seeing Woods' face light up -- reminded of his own grandmother -- Smith said her appreciation is exactly why he wanted to help.

“The support we got from Katrina was big, so I know that with their help and helping out here, it will really help people most affected by the storm,” Smith said.

The biggest need right now for Arlington Community Services is canned food, toiletries and powdered milk. To find out how to donate and help the community get back on its feet, call 904-503-8496 or visit the center at 1450 Rogero Road.

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