Warrick Dunn's mother, Betty Smothers, was a police officer raising six children alone in a crammed Baton Rouge apartment when she was shot and killed during a 1993 supermarket holdup. Her dream was to own a home one day.
Betty never got that chance, but since his rookie year of 1997, Dunn, the Buccaneers' Pro Bowl running back, has been making that dream come true for other single mothers in Baton Rouge and Tampa. Dunn's program, Home for the Holidays, has provided 25 women with a $5,000 down payment on a house, which Dunn furnishes and stocks to the last detail. He chooses the beneficiaries of the program from a list drawn up by local nonprofit agencies.
One of the recipients this year was Linda Williams, 43, a single mother of two teenagers. Two days before Thanksgiving she became the owner of a three-bedroom house in Baton Rouge. "I expected it to be completely empty," says Williams, "but everything inside was so new and so nice. There was furniture in the living room, food in the refrigerator and towels in the bathroom. You don't find many people who care enough to do something like this. His mom would be so proud of what he's been doing around here."
"The program is about mothers, not me," says Dunn. "All they need is a little help to push them over the hump. I only want to get these families to the point where I wanted to be when I was growing up."