According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Division of Labor Force Statistics, the volunteer rate declined for the year ending in September 2015. Approximately 62.6 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2014 and September 2015.
To increase the volunteer rates throughout the United States’ fifth largest city, NFL safety Rodney McLeod, Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region (BBBS Independence) and Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Williams formed an alliance to register mentors while celebrating National Volunteer Month.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without mentors and positive role models in my life,” stated McLeod of the Philadelphia Eagles. “There are thousands of youth in Philadelphia and South Jersey facing significant challenges in today’s society.”
Through McLeod’s “Mentoring Is Brotherhood Challenge,” the collective have set out to recruit 100 male volunteers and raise $5,000 to support youth mentoring programs, run by BBBS Independence, this month. BBBS Independence currently has more than 1,200 children signed up and waiting for mentors, with the majority being young African American and Hispanic. McLeod is working with BBBS Independence and State Senator Williams by challenging all men in the Delaware Valley, especially men of color, to step up and volunteer.
“I think there’s a misperception that mentoring is a time consuming process,” said Marcus Allen, CEO of BBBS Independence.
“Our only requirement is that volunteer mentors (Bigs) meet with their mentees (Littles) 2-4 hours, 2-4 times per month. The time requirement is minimal, but the results are life-changing for youth in the program. We’re excited Rodney has decided to support our mission and hopeful that his status as an elite football player will attract the male demographic we’re looking for right now.”
With Philly in the sports spotlight for the NFL Draft, Philadelphia Eagles Brent Celek and Rodney McLeod talk football, family, and free time.
Rodney McLeod and Brent Celek in action at the Linc.
Run down the stats and Brent Celek and Rodney McLeod don’t seem to have much in common. Celek, who began his career as a fifth-round draft pick under Andy Reid, is a veteran Eagles tight end and has been a fixture on both the football and philanthropy scenes in Philly for more than a decade. McLeod, who grew up around the Washington, DC area, just wrapped up his first season with the Eagles as a safety after starting out as an undrafted free agent with the St. Louis Rams, and is still getting to know his adopted hometown. But they do have one big thing in common: They love the food in Philly, from out-of-the-way pizza joints to stalwart dining experiences like Buddakan. Fresh off a charity fashion show for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Celek and McLeod donned suits instead of uniforms to talk to Philadelphia Style.
When did you both know that football was more than a hobby?
Brent Celek: I always knew I loved football. I watched all the games growing up, especially Notre Dame. I liked the Eagles but the Pittsburgh Steelers were my favorite team because of Jerome Bettis. He’s my favorite player of all time. I started playing tight end as a freshman in high school. During the first game I caught a touchdown pass, and I knew that was the position I wanted to play.
Rodney McLeod: My mom always made sure we did extracurricular activities, so I played football and basketball, and ran track growing up. I went to the Junior Olympics for track and ran in the Penn Relays in high school. I enjoyed it but I knew football was where I wanted to be. I didn’t want to just run—I wanted to have a purpose behind it. Track has really helped me on the field from a conditioning standpoint. I’ve got a lot of miles on these legs.
What were your first impressions about Philadelphia?
RM: I’m from the DC area so there are a lot of similarities. I had only been to Philly once before, but I had friends from here so I knew a lot about the city—like the cheesesteaks. I still don’t have a favorite.
BC: Cincinnati was like a ghost town compared to Philadelphia; I had never really been to a major city before. One of the first things that I heard was about the people, that it was a rougher, tougher city. And it turns out that it is. [Laughs] But I liked that. It’s changed me for the better.
How are you spending the off season?
RM: I’m going to stay in Philly and check out new restaurants. I have a whole list on my phone. I’ve knocked a lot of tourist stuff off my bucket list already: the Rocky steps, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell.
BC: My family and I are going to a cabin in the Midwest. I like to cook, so I’ll make everything from scratch, and read a lot. Being a new dad is the greatest thing ever. My daughter has really changed how I see the world.
What’s one thing people might not know about you?
RM: I’m the oldest of five brothers and sisters so I always helped out growing up, from making grilled cheese to changing diapers.
BC: I’m an entrepreneur at heart. Real estate is my passion so I’m getting more involved in that. And I’m working with a local R&B artist, Guordan Banks, on his music career. Music is my other passion.