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NBA’s Wade pays for homes in N. Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–When the NBA came to New Orleans for the All-Star break, thousands of eager recovery volunteers came as well.

One of those volunteers was Miami Heat All-Star Guard Dwyane Wade, who, in advance of the All-Star game, had heard of what the Baptist Crossroads Project is doing in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans. He wanted to help. Wade’s Christianity is well-known around the league; he chose to wear the No. 3 because it represents the Trinity.

The Baptist Crossroads Project is an ongoing partnership between the Baptist Crossroads Foundation and New Orleans-area Habitat for Humanity to build affordable housing in the Upper Ninth Ward neighborhood. Crossroads is also targeting the 75-block area around the site for long-term recovery.

Carmen Wilson, who once worked for the Miami Heat, contacted Baptist Crossroads Project volunteer coordinator Jared Pryer in early January. Wade partners with Wilson’s company, 4 Survival to Go, to distribute survival kits to people threatened by natural disasters.

“At that point, she just told me there was an NBA player who was going to be in town for the All-Star game,” Pryer said. “She asked me what we were doing. I told her about the Baptist Crossroads Project, and at that point, she talked to me about passing out hurricane emergency kits to homeowners.”

The 4 Survival to Go kits are packed with items to help a family survive the first 72 hours after a disaster: emergency food and water, phone card, flashlight/radio/siren/phone charger, poncho, sleeping bag, survival tools, first aid kit and other items.

Not long after that, though, another of Wade’s associates and his sister stopped by Pryer’s office while the Heat were in town for a regular season game.

“They told me that Dwyane really wanted to do something that was more permanent than just the emergency kits,” Pryer said. “I mentioned home sponsorship as an option.”

Before construction on a new Habitat house can begin, $20,000 must be raised. That $20,000 can come from a single sponsor or from multiple sponsors. A great way to participate in what Baptist Crossroads is doing in New Orleans, Pryer said, is to sponsor a house.

“The called me back a few weeks later and said they’d like to sponsor three houses,” Pryer said. “They like to do things in threes, because that’s his number.”

Wade, a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, partnered with Converse on Saturday, Feb. 16, to host a brunch that was emceed by ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith. At the brunch, First Baptist Church of New Orleans Pastor David Crosby spoke about the Baptist Crossroads Project. Then, Wade described what he was doing the next day at the Crossroads site. Part of the proceeds from the event will go to the Baptist Crossroads Project.

The next day, Wade took a driving tour of New Orleans that ended at the Baptist Crossroads site. Wade’s interaction with neighbors around the Crossroads site, Pryer said, marked the whole experience.

“Dwyane personally went up, knocked on doors, gave the kits to families, talked to parents and their kids for a little bit and took pictures,” Pryer recalled.

Wade “got to meet all the families of the homes he’s co-sponsoring with Baptist Crossroads Project, Prayer said.

One of the homeowners even gave him a tour.

“The homeowner just wanted him to go in the house to show him where things were going to be,” Pryer said. “He told him, ‘This is going to be my living room. This is the kitchen. This is where my daughter’s going to sleep.'”

After a long series of heart-felt hugs and pictures, Wade had to leave to prepare for the All-Star Game, played downtown later that day.

Although several famous people have visited the Baptist Crossroads Project, Wade is the first to personally sponsor a house.

“Once we knew the All-Star game was going to be in New Orleans, we really wanted to find a way to leave something behind,” Wade said in a statement. “One of the main things you can do is give someone a home –- and we accomplished that today.

“Although I’m here to play in the All-Star game, my purpose was to come to New Orleans and be a blessing to as many people as possible, and we’ve done that. I feel whole.”

And it didn’t stop there. Wade’s sponsor, Converse, outfitted a hotel ballroom with Converse gear during All-Star week. Organizers didn’t want to have to pack anything up, so they called Pryer to see if he wanted it.

In the end, Pryer got an office full of Converse shoes and the three homeowners –- already blessed by Wade’s generosity –- each now have furniture for their house.
For more information about how to volunteer with Baptist Crossroads Project or about sponsoring a house email Pryer at [email protected], or visit www.baptistcrossroads.org. Michael McCormack is a writer for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

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  • Michael McCormack