LB Shelton Quarles happily exchanged autographs for promises to volunteer
On Tuesday, a quartet of Buccaneers took time out to perform a different kind of community service.
Ryan Nece, Shelton Quarles, Chris Simms and Dewayne White, four players who regularly participate in charitable events and community service programs, spent the lunch hour in Lykes Park in downtown Tampa recruiting volunteers as a part of the NFL/United Way Hometown Huddle.
Hometown Huddle is an annual event that gets representatives from all 32 NFL teams involved in a community service project with their local United Way, all on the same Tuesday. The plan for this year's Hometown Huddle followed the "Join the Team" community service initiative established by the NFL. In keeping with the NFL's call to action, Nece, Quarles, Simms and White took to the streets of downtown Tampa and handed out pamphlets about how to get involved in Hands on Tampa Bay, the United Way's local volunteer program. Assisting the players in the recruitment were other regular volunteers, including Buccaneers Cheerleaders Melanie Capello, Vanessa Castillo, Keri DaCosta, Danielle Dolen and Shana Geramita, as well as representatives from the United Way and Hands on Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneer players and cheerleaders walked around the park and spoke with people who had ventured out of the surrounding office buildings to enjoy the weather during the lunch hour. The Bucs signed autographs on the United Way pamphlets in exchange for an individual promise to sign up with Hands on Tampa Bay.
Although the event didn't involve a traditional, hands-on community project, the Buccaneers feel the service they performed – raising awareness about how to volunteer – is just as important.
"The main reason I came to encourage others to volunteer is because I have volunteered, and I know the feeling and the joy you get when you help someone out who is in need," said Nece. "If you can help by encouraging people to give a little bit of their time, I think that's important. It's something I'm passionate about and something I feel a responsibility to do."
The Buccaneers Cheerleaders appear at and participate in over 300 events per year, including charity programs. Castillo, a volunteer herself, recognizes the importance of encouraging others to lend a hand in the community. "I think it is extremely important to always try to be in the community and get other people to help out," she said. "Those of us out here that volunteer, I think that is a good example for other people, and it motivates them to do something to give back."
Simms sees no reason why he can't contribute to the community on Tuesdays, the traditional day off for NFL players.
"The way I always looked at it is that Tuesday is our day off," he said. "I just try to do something useful instead of sitting on my couch watching TV all day. I figured I would get out here for a little while and try to get people involved. Today was fun. We got to walk around the streets and really interact with people in the city. We have to get them involved now, too."
For more information on how to volunteer with the local United Way and Hands on Tampa Bay, please visit www.handsontampabay.org.