The Philadelphia Eagles may have slipped past the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday night, but when two gridiron greats from the two teams went head-to-head in Lawrence Township Saturday afternoon (Sept. 29), a New York legend and a local cause came out on top.
Former Giants linebacker and two-time Super Bowl champion Carl Banks beat out former Eagles defensive tackle and WIP radio personality Hollis Thomas – by a final score of 114 to 74 – during a celebrity “bowl off” at the Colonial Bowling and Entertainment Center on Brunswick Pike (Business Route 1).
"It's a good opportunity to have a friendly rivalry, but doing it for a good cause," Banks said.
The event was a fundraiser for the United Way of Greater Mercer County, a non-profit group that has been serving area residents for over 70 years. The UWGMC funds programs that provide targeted services in three areas: education, financial stability and health, according to the organization’s president and CEO, Herb Kline.
Last year, the United Way of Greater Mercer County provided mentors to 160 students at Trenton High School, permanent housing to 84 homeless families and services like home healthcare and mobile meals to 456 elderly and disabled residents, according to the organization’s website.
"Every one of our programs is scalable," Kline said. "The more money we have, the more people we can help."
Although UWGMC provides assistance to veterans with rent and food expenses and purchases tanks of oil for less-fortunate residents to heat their homes during winter months, Kline categorizes those services as "fish for a day" types of resolutions. The UWGMC prides itself on funding and implementing programs that enable people to sustain themselves, says Kline.
"We're an organization that helps people help themselves," he said.
Some of the staff members at the United Way are examples of this approach.
Eric Williams, a United Way administrative assistant and attendee of Saturday’s event, was once homeless himself.
"We come from the [Trenton] Rescue Mission; we come from abandoned buildings; from drug abuse…" Williams said. "I just celebrated three years clean. This is beyond my wildest dreams and it's all because of United Way."
The benefits produced by the United Way of Greater Mercer County extend beyond those directly receiving aid.
Last year, the programs implemented by UWGMC returned almost $29 million in economic benefits to the citizens of Mercer County, according to Kline.
"We did almost a thousand [tax returns] in Mercer County and just that process returned over $6.5 million to those residents of Mercer County," Kline said. "But, then those individuals spend that money on car repairs, on their rent, on groceries, on things they need for their family at businesses here in Mercer County."
The UWGMC plans to expand its financial stability and empowerment center which offers services such as free tax preparation, credit counseling, debt management and financial planning to low income families.
UWGMC is also teaming up with hospitals in the county and local health departments to assess the needs of area residents and implement initiatives to improve the health of all Mercer County residents.
"We really only do one thing – we transform lives," Kline said. "That's our mission, and we want to be transformative and permanent."
For more information, visit: http://www.uwgmc.org/.