By Craig Peter's, Vikings.com
On Tuesday, he saw another way to a bright future for families who are served by the nonprofit that houses up to 39 single moms and their children in Minneapolis and 38 in Saint Paul. The program’s goal is to create a path for low-income families to move from poverty to prosperity.
The single moms helped by the Jeremiah Program are all completing coursework toward college degrees. They write papers and prepare for exams, as well as work jobs to provide and find time to parent their little ones.
The ladies will have help with multitasking, thanks to a total of five newly renovated computer labs made possible by a $50,000 donation from COUNTRY Financial, through their partnership with the Minnesota Vikings and Barr’s Raise the Barr Foundation.
“It’s such a great opportunity for three organizations that support the Jeremiah Program to come together and do something that’s really making an impact for our families,” said Jeremiah Program Director of Development Patty Healy Janssen. “Our moms are working really, really hard in school and to be great moms and working jobs. To have a place where they can study and where their kids also can do something, it just makes it easier for them, so it’s a really great opportunity for us to come together.”
Barr and his mother, Lori, who raised him in California, launched the foundation to help single-parent families because of their own experiences. Lori was determined to make sure her son received a good education and wouldn’t face limited opportunities. As Barr has matured, he’s gained an increased appreciation for sacrifices that Lori made on his behalf.
“It’s something that I kind of lived through and have seen first-hand the struggles and triumphs,” Barr said. “I didn’t realize it then, but I know now that everyone needs some type of help in some type of way. I was fortunate to have a great, strong family around me. My mom and her parents, my aunts and uncles and cousins all played a big part in raising me and my success today, so I think it’s only right now that I’m able to help the next person.”
Jeremiah Program, which helps families transition from poverty to prosperity two generations at a time, used the donation to purchase new computers, iPads, furniture and more.
“I think having access to computers on site is going to be a huge benefit,” Barr said. “I don’t know how you can go a day without using a computer or smart phone. Nowadays it’s kind of necessary. It’s tough to go about life and do your business when you don’t have those resources, so I think having resources will allow them to continue to empower these moms, allow them to place not only themselves but their families in better positions going forward.”
In addition to joining representatives from COUNTRY Financial and the Vikings for a ribbon cutting, Barr tossed a football back and forth with one youngster and built objects out of Legos with others. He brightened and broadened smiles on the faces of young people in photos.
“It was a great experience to be here to see what the donation has done for the computer labs,” said COUNTRY Financial Agency Manager Doug Pyle. “Seeing before and after pictures was very impactful, and then seeing them light up when Anthony went in there and was playing with the kids was just a great opportunity.”
The youth, which ranged from infants to pre-adolescents, weren’t at all intimidated as they approached the 6-5, 255-pound linebacker.
“It’s special,” Barr said of the visit. “Any time that you have a positive impact on families or other people, it’s rewarding, it’s humbling. It reminds me a lot of where I come from. I think that’s the biggest thing is never losing sight of who you are as a person and where you come from and always being appreciative of the opportunities presented to you, and when those opportunities do present themselves, you take advantage of them.”
The relationship built by the Raise the Barr Foundation and Jeremiah Program has been a great fit.
Barr has read children’s books, participated in obstacle courses with preschoolers and held infants on previous visits.
“It’s really been a neat experience to see a young professional football player so passionate about an organization and the work we’re doing that has impacted him,” Healy Janssen said. “He knows firsthand, and he is so authentic in how he engages with us and honors his mom in a way that is just really beautiful. To have them working with us in a way that elevates us and our moms and is doing something that they really love is a neat experience.”