Dunn charities-surprise

Warrick Dunn Charities (WDC), a public non-profit serving single-parent families across the country, continues to improve lives through its Home for the Holidays (HFTH) program. In the spirit of the holiday season, HFTH helped two Atlanta single mothers as they started their journey of first-time homeownership.

Curelle Cannada has overcome many barriers to achieve homeownership. After removing financial debts of the past, Cannada began the process of owning her first home when she applied to the Atlanta Habitat for Humanity. Cannada cares for her two children, daughter, Chloe, and son, Antonio and attends as many sporting events that they are involved in. At the same time she maintains her long standing job of six years as a Customer Service Manager. This home presentation was even more special for Cannada because it allows her 23-year-old brother, Xavier, whom will also enjoy a stable home, to finally have his own space where he can flourish.

“This must be my reward for becoming a better person and working hard to provide a better life for my children. This is more than I could imagine; for people who don’t even know me to bless me with so much,” said Cannada as she admired her new light teal room.

“Mom, I can’t wait to move into our new house today,” said Cannada’s daughter when she woke up in their cramped apartment Thursday morning. Soon she would find out that she would be moving into more than just a house, but a completely furnished home. The Cannada family, under the impression they were going to do their final walk through, arrived at their newly built house, instead, to find a surprise presentation by Warrick Dunn Charities and Atlanta Falcons Owner Arthur Blank and his family.

With the surprise came a fully furnished space including linens in their four bedrooms to match each family member’s style, an office space, a stocked kitchen, and lawn equipment. As a sponsor of the home, the Blank family personally helped shop for and stage the Cannada family’s home.

Through 250 sweat equity hours physically building her house, financial planning, and nonstop dedication, Cannada showed her commitment to giving her children not only a place to call home, but a safe and stable space that will allow them to focus on their love for sports and their education.

“The program is our opportunity to provide the family with better opportunities in their future. It really opens the kids eyes and their confidence and self-esteem improves,” said Dunn.

Warrick Dunn, limited partner of the Atlanta Falcons, began the HFTH program in 1997 during his rookie season in the NFL in honor of his late mother’s dream of homeownership. Betty Smothers, a Baton Rouge police officer, was killed during an after hours security shift when Dunn was just 18 years old. Through HFTH, Dunn honors his mother by supporting single parents who have worked hard to provide a safe and secure place for their families.

The HFTH program has given single parents the extra boost they need to succeed as new homeowners but also emphasizes on providing adequate necessities for the children of these families. Through HFTH, children and teens are introduced to safe housing, a fully stocked kitchen with nutritious food that influences healthy living and most importantly they have a space of their own where they can study and spend time as a family.

Following the Cannada family’s presentation, supporters of HFTH and Habitat traveled down the street to surprise Michelle Manns and her two sons in becoming the 120th recipient family of the HFTH program.

Manns first learned about the Habitat housing program through her cousin whom is also an Atlanta Habitat homeowner, and the one who encouraged Manns to apply for a house. Before successfully completing the Habitat requirements, Manns and her two sons, Paris and Lataious lived in her grandmother’s home with several other family members. Manns has been driving a school bus for children with special needs for Atlanta Public Schools for nearly a decade and absolutely loves it.

“Oh my gosh, are you for real? I love it,” said Manns as she entered her newly furnished home. Like the Cannada family, Manns had no idea what to expect when they arrived at their newly built 3-bedroom house.

Growing up in the Atlanta area, this is the first time Manns and her children will have a very own space of their own. As Dunn took the family through their new home, the boys jumped joyously onto their new beds and the youngest even danced with joy. The kitchen was also a big surprise to the Manns family as they found a turkey and ham to enjoy for the holidays, along with other kitchen essentials that will help them enjoy warm family meals together.

“The emotions and feelings I get when we surprise each family are always so different, especially in Atlanta where there is so much community support,” said Dunn. “I enjoy providing the tools to help single parents continue to be financially independent and giving a better life to their children. My mom lost her life trying to give my family a better life, so I have a lot of respect for other single parents doing the same.”

In addition to complete home furnishings and furniture provided by Aaron’s Inc., HFTH provides each recipient with $5,000 down-payment assistance, greatly lowering their monthly mortgage payments and providing extra money for things like doctor appointments or extra-curricular activities for the children.

To date, in partnership with Aaron’s Inc., HFTH and its sponsors have rewarded 120 single parents and 322 children and dependents across the nation for achieving the American Dream of first-time homeownership.

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