Tech Student-Athletes, Staff Lend A Hand

Aug. 19, 2011

When Georgia Tech recently announced plans to improve the game-day experience at Bobby Dodd Stadium this fall, the announcement omitted one of the best parts: Habitat for Humanity will benefit from the subtle — and not-so-subtle — changes in and around Grant Field.

First, a little history.

During the off-season, Tech officials poured through the results of a survey it sent fans. The goal of the survey was to produce ideas, from fans, that would make the Bobby Dodd Stadium game-day experience even better.

The fans chimed in. The Athletic Association listened. When fans enter the facility this season, many will be greated by Yellow Jacket coaches, staff members and student-athletes. They’ll see a more efficient concessions area that now accepts credit cards. Click the link in the first paragraph for a more detailed list of all the changes.

Part of the improvements included the installation of new high-definition flatscreen televisions in more than 60-plus suites.

With new TVs going in, more than 100 gently-used, but perfectly functional TVs were on their way out. Leah Thomas, Tech’s director of Life Skills, came up with the well-received idea of donating the old TVs to charity.

And that’s where the Atlanta Habitat for Humanity enters the picture.

“Over the years we have worked with and helped a number of great organizations in the Atlanta area,” Thomas said. “Looking at the list, I knew that the Atlanta Habitat for Humanity would be eager and more than willing.”

The Atlanta Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization that helps Atlanta families achieve the American dream of homeownership. All support from sponsors, donors, and volunteers directly benefits the local Atlanta community.

So, how did our television upgrade benefit Atlanta Habitat for Humanity?

Down the road from Bobby Dodd Stadium, across from Oakland Cemetery on Memorial Drive, the Atlanta Habitat for Humanity operates a “store” called ReStore, where new and gently used appliances, home furnishings and home improvement merchandise are sold at a significantly discounted rate. All proceeds from these sales are used to help fulfill the Atlanta Habitat for Humanity mission to build affordable, green quality homes.

When the more than 100 10-year old televisions were removed from the suites, the GTAA donated them to ReStore and Atlanta Habitat for Humanity. One-hundred TVs, even at a modest price, should bring some significant pocket change to this worthy organization.

There’s more to this feel-good story.

“We have some great young men and women that make up our student-athlete population,” Thomas said. “They got involved.”

Call it a case of bad timing, but Thursday (Aug. 18) may have been the worst possible day for the donation to take place.

“It was a typical hot August morning,” Thomas said, “and it was also the day that every freshmen, it seemed, and their mother were on campus to move into the dorms. There was construction on different parts of campus. Some streets were blocked off.

“And somehow we have to load 100 TVs on to trucks.”

Thomas figured to have other problems as well. The football and volleyball teams, as well as our cheerleaders, were all in the middle of preseason camp and those student-athletes would not be available to help out.

“And our other sports didn’t technically need to report to campus until Sunday,” Thomas said.

Not optimistic, but not yet in panic mode, Thomas e-mailed the Student-Athlete Advisory Board. The subject line: “Need Help”.

When Thursday morning came around — Moving Day, quite literally — Thomas was ecstatic and relieved to see representatives of men’s tennis, women’s basketball, golf and cheerleading teams show up in the Edge Center lobby. All completely ready to get their hands dirty.

“There is rarely, if ever, a request that I make to our student-athletes that goes unfulfilled,” Thomas said. “These kids — or young men and women — are out in our community on a regular basis.”

Not knowing so many student-athletes would volunteer to help, Thomas’ back-up plan was to ask co-workers from the student support services staff. They showed up, too.

Through the chaos of freshmen move-in day, in the heat, the student-athletes and Tech staff members got to work. They directed the Habitat for Humanity truck through the circus. They negotiated with police officers to let the truck pass through an otherwise closed-off Techwood Drive. Once at the stadium, they loaded the TVs and distributed bottles of water.

“The bottom line is that the GTAA staff and our student-athletes came through once again,” Thomas said. “Our ‘trash’ became someone else’s treasure.”

And that treasure will benefit an organization that will help our fellow Atlantans achieve the American Dream.

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