The New York Giants' "team of teams" initiative has provided its players and coaches with an opportunity to find a way to help New Jersey/ New York communities in a variety of ways. For Jabrill Peppers, this meant a chance to do something close to his heart.
Peppers and his group chose to focus on contributing to the school district and supporting families in need within the East Orange (N.J.) community. This meant working in partnership with the Mayor's Office to help support the people in the place where he was born and raised.
"As a young kid, obviously, there are challenges, but there were ways to escape that," Peppers said. "I was heavily involved in a lot of after school activities just to stay focused, try to steer clear of trouble. To be able to come from there and make it out, you're kind of used to anything that life throws at you. It had its challenges, but I'm thankful for the man it made me."
Peppers, 25, took part in a recent video conference with Giants legend Victor Cruz and Mayor Ted Green to discuss the community and the work his group has done in the area.
"East Orange is a city of 65,000 residents here," Mayor Green said. "We are more of a bedroom community. We have a different number of ethnic folks that are in our community. Caribbean, Hispanics, Latinos, Haitian community, and we're very proud of our community. We have three high schools here, but again, it's only one football team, one basketball team, one track team. We are a city that works together, from our school district all the way down to elected officials, all the way down to our clergy, all the way down to our business owners. We're feeling good about the movement in the city of East Orange."
Peppers and his team met virtually with Mayor Ted Green often over the Summer and were able to receive a unique education on the many difficulties involved with running a city during the COVID pandemic. They also learned about the rich history of the community, and some of its future plans. They were also able to hear from Police Commissioner Phyllis Bindi and discussed her department's efforts around community policing in East Orange. They also spent time with the Director of the Mayor's Office of Employment and Training to hear about the vocational resources that are available to residents of the city.
"I wanted the guys to really understand East Orange," Peppers said about why they chose this initiative. "The people there, the places, what it's like to grow up, and what better way to do that than working with the mayor. I've had my book bag drives, did a couple food drives, but I really wanted to dive in and introduce the guys to where I'm from. Especially me being from there, I take it more personally because I've seen firsthand the challenges that those citizens face. For me, it was a no-brainer. Just happy the guys locked in and took it seriously."
After several weeks of educating themselves about the work going on in East Orange, it was time for the group to get into action with their own plans of contributing to the community. To begin fulfilling their promise of impacting the school district, Jabrill donated Hess Toy Trucks to the 5th graders at Cicely Tyson Elementary School, and surprised them with a virtual class visit to teach them a physics lesson using the trucks they had just received. He also joined with Dalvin Tomlinson and American Dairy Association North East to award a $10,000 Fuel Up to Play 60 Hometown Grant to the East Orange Department of Education to support their schools' food programs, which provide take-home meals for all students in the district. Peppers and Tomlinson spoke to the kids about the importance of eating healthy meals and playing actively for 60 minutes every day, while also emphasizing the importance of doing their best as students during this period of virtual learning.
Peppers and his teammates have also made their presence known with the East Orange football community. Jabrill was able to highlight Shakur Taylor of the East Orange Junior Jaguars on "Next Generations" with NFL Network. He also spoke to the East Orange Campus (H.S.) football team to encourage them not only in their season, but also in their education – with classes being taught virtually. He finished his presentation by surprising the Jaguars with a $10,000 donation from the Giants Foundation to the football program. A week later, the Giants honored their head Coach, Rae Oliver, as the Week 8 High School Coach of the Week after the Jaguars beat previously undefeated Clifton, 36-0. Over the last few weeks, a different Giants player has taken turns speaking to a position group on the football team every Tuesday.
With the holidays approaching, group is also making a $20,000 contribution in partnership with the Giants to support the city's Thanksgiving and December holiday efforts to make sure that every family has a delicious meal on the table and presents for the children to open and enjoy.
"I've been on the other side of it, so I know what it means to those children, those kids and those families," Peppers said about the importance of giving back to his hometown. "Just the status we hold where people look up to us. Not only are we leading by example on the field, we're also leading by example off the field. Know that they are really touching these kids' lives and truly helping them. I think that's the main takeaway."