Jameer Nelson, Tobias Harris Help Build Community With Habitat for Humanity Orlando

By John Denton of…Assigned to paint a door stoop high overhead as a part of the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando project, Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson took plenty of grief about his lack of height and his need for a foot stool on Thursday.

Later, Nelson said it was fully worth taking the ribbing and getting paint smeared all over his blue NBA Cares shirt and black Reebok shorts because of the impact the work would have on a needy Central Florida family someday soon.

“You think about what we’re doing here and I’m humbled by this opportunity,” a reflective Nelson said. “Somebody is going to get to move into that house. Somebody is going to have a great time in that house. And they’re not going to have to worry about where they are sleeping. There’s just something great about doing something like that for a family.”

Nelson, teammate Tobias Harris, Community Ambassador Bo Outlaw and 20 Magic employees took part in a work day for the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando on Thursday. The Magic have sponsored five of the 58 homes in the Stag Horn Villas section of Orlando. The $8 million project started more than four years ago, and when the Magic’s work is complete all the families will be in the three bedroom, 1 ½ bath homes that feature 1,150 square feet and energy star-rated features.

“When we started this community some of the things that we thought about were not only the aesthetics of the home, but also making them energy efficient,’’ said Jennifer Gallagher, the director of community outreach for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando. “We wanted to make these homes sustainable long-term for the homeowners. Our goal is decent, affordable housing and we wanted it to be something that people are proud of. And this can be a showcase for what Habitat for Humanity really stands for.”

Lynn Ivanek, the director of development for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando, said that for families to qualify for ownership of the homes they have to meet three criteria: They have to show a need for the home with their current living arrangements; they must be willing to put in the “sweat equity” on the construction, with single parents required to perform 300 hours of service and two-parent families putting in 500 hours; and they have to show that they have a means with which to pay mortgages that usually range from $550 to $700 a month.

Gallaher said the Magic should be lauded for stepping up and sponsoring and helping do the work on the final five homes in the complex.

“This sort of thing really shows that the Magic are engaged in their community and they get involved in a variety of ways,” Gallagher said. “They care about the people who live in this community and support them. The city supports their franchise and then they return that by supporting the community as well. It’s just great to see (Magic employees) come out and give their time when there is no reward for them besides the feeling of just giving back.”

Harris, whom the Magic acquired in a trade with Milwaukee in late February, said he is finally starting to feel at home in Central Florida. In addition to being a big hit on the court for the Magic – he averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in 27 games in Orlando – he made it a point to volunteer for as much community work as possible. Harris got in a two-hour workout at the team’s headquarters on Thursday morning, and then headed over to the Habitat for Humanity event for some painting of porch columns and doorways.

“This makes you feel great, especially what we’re doing as an organization with the Orlando Magic by giving back to families in need,” Harris said. “It makes you appreciate things that you have in your life a lot more. I just love helping out people anyway that I can. I’ve always been the type to try and find ways to help people who are in need and do what I can also to help the organization. A lot of times it can just bring a smile to someone’s face when an NBA athlete comes and helps out.”

Harris, 20, knows that this is a big summer for many of the Magic’s young players and he didn’t want to waste any time trying to improve his skills.

“I did a week off and then it was back to starting up workouts for me,” he said with a laugh. “I just don’t really like to take too much time off in the offseason because I get bored. So I got it going again pretty quick because I still feel like I need to grow as a player and make more strides.”

Nelson, the Magic’s longest-tenured player and team captain, has used his time off this summer to be active in the community. Winner of the Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment award back in March, Nelson presented a $25,000 check to the Runway To Hope last Saturday night. Later in the year, Nelson plans to present the other $25,000 of his $50,000 grant from the DeVos award to another charitable organization in Central Florida.

Nelson said the Magic’s commitment to making a difference in their community is so much more than just lip service. The Magic put in plenty of dollars of support and hours of work for local causes, such as Nelson’s painting of the new home on Thursday. Nelson said the devotion to the community is a direct reflection of owner Rich DeVos’ wishes that the Magic make a difference off the court.

“It says a lot about our owner and who he is as a person. It’s not just about winning a championship on the court; it’s also about winning off the court as well. We all know that we are very fortunate to have what we have. And we know that when we’re in a position to help somebody we should do it,” Nelson said. “We practice what we preach here with the Magic. I’ve been fortunate being on a team and in an organization with great people who love this organization. Look at a guy like Bo Outlaw, who has been here forever, and he loves this organization. He’s somebody that I look up to because of the things that he does in the community.”

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