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Building a Better Foundation

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Two-time Super Bowl champion and LSU alumni Jarvis Green holds a food and wine gala to benefit single moms

LSU alumni and Houston Texans Defensive Lineman Jarvis Green may be best known for his superior skills out on the football field, but it’s his dedicated work as a philanthropist that leads to greener pastures for others less fortunate. After winning the Ron Burton Community Service Award in 2006 while playing with the New England Patriots, the two-time Super Bowl champion decided to take a big step in serving the disadvantaged after Hurricane Katrina, and the Jarvis Green Foundation was established in 2007.

A devoted husband and father of three hailing from a strong family background, Green came to understand and appreciate the strength, dedication and sacrifice it takes for disadvantaged single mothers in low income areas to build their children’s lives, and focused his foundation on helping these single moms, proving he’s also a champion for having done an extremely commendable job at re-defining the term “ladies’ man.”

As a connoisseur of great food and wine, a former restaurant owner in his hometown of Donaldsonville, La., and a big fan of cooking for family and friends, Green has incorporated his foodie fanaticism into his honorable, altruistic work. Holding wine tasting events in past years in the New England area to support the Jarvis Green Foundation, Green is excited to host the first ever Southern Louisiana Wine Tasting & Gala at the Cook Hotel/Lod Cook Alumni Center in Baton Rouge on Friday May 27, an important event Green hopes to continue for years to come, from which proceeds will be distributed to serve disadvantaged single moms in Baton Rouge and surrounding areas. And that’s not the only plan Green has for his hometown area. One day down the line, when Green retires from the game, he plans to focus full time on using his college degree in construction engineering with the business he co-owns, First Millennium Construction, one of the top minority-owned businesses in Louisiana. With his warm personality, great sense of humor, admirable humility and unshakeable dedication to others, Green showed New Orleans Living his heart is truly gold.

Hi Jarvis! You’re a true foodie. When did your passion for food start?

I had a great experience where my palate was opened at around age 6 when one of my relatives gave me an oyster on a cracker with hot sauce. I was hooked on good food! From that point I never stopped trying different things. When I come home to Baton Rouge and New Orleans, I love going around and trying different restaurants and new things. I’ve been doing that for years, when I was in Boston and in Providence and in Denver, where I live right now. It’s one of my passions, and now to support the cause of my foundation I do wine tastings. I’m a big wine connoisseur and I’m still learning, but most of my foundation events that I do up in the Providence and Massachusetts areas involve wine tastings.

What inspired you to start the Jarvis Green Foundation in 2007?

In 2006, I won the Ron Burton award for my work with the Patriots, which is a big award in the Northeast area, from helping people through the Patriots’ foundation, but then Katrina hit and I lost family members and people just went through so much stuff so I thought, ‘man, I could put a foundation together,’ and I decided to help single moms. I grew up in a family with both of my parents, but I realized if I help a single mom, I’m helping their kids also. We have a great government system, but for single moms busting their tails it’s either like they make too much or they don’t make enough. The foundation helps so many moms at a time who are doing something; we’ve helped over 250 moms to date. And for me it’s personal, we have a relationship with these mothers; we talk to them and keep in touch. We help single moms with car payments, house payments, tuition for the moms going to college, kids’ clothing, holiday food and utilities. Single moms can go to our web site, www.jarvisgreen.com to write their 500-word-or-less story about why they need help from the foundation. We go from there and ensure the moms legitimately need assistance; we want to help those really in need. We want to add 30, 40 or 50 moms each year to help.

Since you didn’t come from a single parent background, what inspired you to understand the plight and the struggles of single parents?

My mom and dad always gave to the church. We were blessed, we were very happy for what we had, we never took anything for granted. Even though we didn’t grow up with lots of money, my parents were always helping people in the community, and I think seeing that rubbed off on me. They were involved with battered women, different charities like sickle cell anemia and foster kids. So it was always in my heart and I said if I ever get the opportunity, I will do the same thing and help someone. So we’re going full steam ahead every day for the single moms, fighting to raise money and get the cause out, letting people know we’re a legit foundation that’s serious about what we’re doing and giving the money back to the single moms.

So you put a new spin on the term ‘ladies’ man’ don’t you Jarvis?

Yes! That’s it, I’m a ladies’ man! But we’re helping the single moms and their kids. The one-on-one relationships are personal. We keep in touch with them. Once we help them and we have the relationship we tell them don’t forget about us, we’ll be here for you, and we will not forget about you.

What do you teach your children about helping people in need?

My son Terrence is 13; my daughters are Ja Nya, who’s 8, and Toi is 5. What I tell them is if someone really needs help and you have a dollar, give them 50 cents. Give them something. I tell them every day how fortunate they are and I tell them about how I grew up. For instance, they always get the cereal they want, and I tell them we ate commodity this, commodity that, because we had five kids in the house. They eat these Fruit Loops and Apple Jacks and all these Corn Pops and we ate corn flakes all the time and we were happy, we didn’t complain. I tell them to be happy with what they have and stay humble because it can be taken away from you in a second. I always tell them to share because the biggest thing you can do as a human being is share with someone who is less fortunate. I tell them they are very blessed; I mean, we were very blessed, but we didn’t have 10 percent of what my kids have. When you’re fortunate enough to be blessed like this you gotta bless someone else with it. I think they’re tired of me saying it because I tell them every day.

You are very passionate about food and wine. What do your family and friends love that you whip up in the kitchen?

I can tell you, they like stews. I do a lot of stews, because being a football player in college, I always cooked gigantic meals. I’d cook big pots of spaghetti, shrimp stew, corn stew, potato stew and jambalaya. I’m a guy that doesn’t follow cookbooks but I have been lately, because I’ve been going out of my Southern boundaries and learning cooking from different cultures. I just got this Italian cookbook because I’m crazy about marinara sauce. My mom cooked it for me twice a week; I loved it! To this day I eat as much as I can. Look, if you don’t like spaghetti and meatballs something is wrong, you know! I’ll try different things that I want to eat, but I keep it simple and quick, like 20- or 30-minute meals, because when I get home the kids are starving.

What can people look forward to at the Jarvis Green Foundation’s first Southern Louisiana Wine Tasting & Gala on Friday, May 27 in Baton Rouge?

It’s going to be something very special. It’s the first time it’ll be held in Baton Rouge and hopefully we’ll keep going strong in Baton Rouge for years to come. I’m from Baton Rouge and I’m going to be back home one day when that time comes. This is a black tie event but I say it’s a black, purple and blue tie event. We have our colleges in Baton Rouge and you can wear any of that; Southern has their blue tie, LSU has their purple tie and maybe you went to Tulane, so hey, you can bring your green tie! Of course, you don’t always have to think ‘tuxedo.’ Business casual is fine; you’ll be dressed for the cause. There’s going to be a cash bar, a great mix of Southern food, a live band called The Rat Pack featuring Liz Minnelli; the Sammy Davis guy is coming from Vegas, like the Liza Minnelli singer is. They’re serious about this band and if you close your eyes and listen, for those who lived in that era, you’ll think you’re listening to the actual Rat Pack and Liza Minnelli. We’re going to have cigars that can be smoked on the outside patio. It’s going to be a great event. Former LSU players and NFL guys that played at LSU and other surrounding schools will be there, we’ll have a fire dancer and a comedian. There’ll be a silent auction and raffles with golf vacation packages. I think people will really enjoy this night, and at the same time they’ll be helping victimized, disadvantaged, single working mothers. It’s going to be beautiful. And also, on May 26, there will be a Bayou Comedy Bash in Baton Rouge that will also support the foundation.

That’s going to be fantastic! So Jarvis, you’ve won the Super Bowl a couple of times; you understand that euphoric winning feeling firsthand. What did you think about the Saints’ historic Super Bowl win?

I can tell you this: I went to that game, and that was the first time I went to the Super Bowl in person without me playing the game. I have to say during the course of the week I had to stay neutral; I can’t wear the black and gold because I have my ties with the job. But I was crying when they won that game. That entire season touched me emotionally. It was an amazing experience to watch the city of New Orleans, my town also, my state, go out there and do what they did because it came at a perfect time for the city; what they went through during Katrina was just a mess. The city really needed it, the state really needed it, the individuals who were long-time Saints fans really needed it. So for me, it touched me, it was a part of me. To this day, I shout, “Who Dat! Who Dat!” I shout it! But I kind of have to stay quiet when I’m in a locker room playing for another team! (Laughs). But it’s in my heart. When I’m done playing ball, I’m going to be at the Saints games. I’m a true fan. I’m going to have my season tickets.

We’re going to be looking for you in that number! You say that you have a Plan B involving your college degree for when you retire from the NFL. Tell us about it.

I went to LSU for construction engineering and finished in ’02. The construction world is one of my passions along with being a foodie and football (player). I worked at Rolls-Royce Naval Marine for two years; they did the ship propellers for the Navy and that’s the division I was in. So I started very young in that. I worked at the Shaw Group as well for five years when I was at LSU in the summer. I’m part owner of a company called First Millennium Construction, which helps to rebuild Louisiana, and we also do commercial outside the state. We’re a minority-owned business. I’ve been networking, doing conference calls and stuff, but when I’m home, I’m going to be there full time working alongside my partner Nathian Hossley and his wife, Sarah Hossley, the owners of the company. He’s my neighbor in Baton Rouge, and it’s funny, for the past three years, every time I came home I used to beg him, ‘Nathian, please give me a chance. I want to get into the company,’ and he never would, because he didn’t know how serious I was about construction, but when I got released from the Denver Broncos, we talked. If I wouldn’t have gotten released from Denver I think he’d never had given me that shot because I would have been doing my own thing playing football, so I wouldn’t have any worries in the world. But like I tell him, I’ve been sitting on my Plan B for years. It’s not like I got cut and I panicked; I’ve been doing this and always wanted to do my Plan B. But I’m happy to be part of First Millennium, and we’re moving forward. We have lots of things going on and so far everything’s been perfect. I’m still with Houston, but I’m a free agent right now, and with this lockout I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ll be here but I’m more concerned about the fans.

Let’s hope for some positive resolution to that! Jarvis, what would you like your legacy to be?

You know, I want to leave this world with, number one, we’re not perfect as human beings, and it’s important to me being a father, a husband, a provider for my family. And when someone says, ‘Jarvis Green, yeah, he won some Super Bowls and all, but he was a great person that touched someone’s life and helped them, and he had a heart.’

Well I think that’s going to be an easy legacy for you to leave …

-CHRISTINE FONTANA