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The Gift of Strength - Joseph's Home for Boys receives special donations
The Atlanta Falcons and a local martial arts instructor make unexpected donations of time, equipment
Randy, 16, and Matthew, 9, (background) try out some of the new weight training equipment donated to Joseph's Home for Boys by the Atlanta Falcons. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Bulging biceps, leaner bodies, and physical exercise as well as self-defense skills are all part of a recent surprise and an ongoing partnership that have made residents of  Joseph’s Home for Boys more health-minded.
    Gym equipment donated by the Atlanta Falcons, and weekly tae kwon do lessons donated by Eddie Lott have brought smiles as well as better health to the boys, said administrative director Amy Futch.
    Former Georgia Southern University head football coach  and current Falcons coach Brian VanGorder and his wife Polly were staunch supporters of the Joseph’s Home for Boys, she said. Mrs. Van Gorder was a member of  the home’s board of directors while the couple lived here.
    “Their hearts jumped into the boys,” Futch said. “They were very involved and supportive.” Van Gorder was “ a good sounding board” for the boys, and offered “ good guidance and feedback.”
    When the couple left Statesboro, they “ continued to stay involved” with the home, she said.
    Local resident Kim Brannen, also a past boy’s home board member, noted recently there was a need for exercise equipment at the home. Having kept in communication with  the Van Gorders, the subject arose and soon, during a discussion about the home’s needs, an idea was born, Futch said.
    A request to Atlanta Falcon’s owner Arthur Blank ended in the purchase of a generous assortment of gym equipment delivered to Joseph’s Home for Boys, much to the delight of staff, supporters and the boys, she said.
    “We’re on a very tight budget and could not afford” things such as the gym equipment, she said. But now the boys have machines and equipment that build neck muscles, leg muscles and other parts of the body, including a weight bench and “ tons of free weights,” she said. There is equipment they use for performing squats and crunches, and a variety of other exercises.
    The boys were “ amazed,” she said. “They were like kids in a candy store - excited, ready to get on it. They’ve been using it ever since. It’s a blessing to have, not something the home could afford.”
    Brandon Hitchens, owner of 180 Fitness, and associate Angie Hitchens, along with Lott, showed  the boys how to use the equipment safely and effectively, she said.
    That’s not all Lott has done, according to Futch. He has taken the boys on as a special project and has been giving free tae kwon do lessons for some time now.
    He used to come to the home, but now he has worked them into lessons he gives at his business location, she said.
    “He is empowering them to do better, be healthy and eat right,” she said. “It’s been phenomenal.”
    Brannen said she feels Lott’s contribution to the boys’ home “ will make a permanent difference in their lives.
    “Not only does he teach them about values, integrity, honor and respect for themselves and others, he teaches them to take care and appropriately handle their bodies,” she said.
    The partnership and cooperation between Lott, the staff of 180 Fitness and the Van Gorders “really has given  them a gift for a lifetime,” she said.
    “The boys look forward to” the tae kwon do lessons, Futch said. “They enjoy the one-on- one” interaction, and when Lott started bringing  them into his lessons at the studio a little over a month ago, for weekly classes, “ it’s been a wonderful experience,” she said.
    The Falcons gave the home  an inner thigh machine, outer thigh machine, squat machine, bench press, a four-way neck machine , upper row, lower row and an assortment of free weights and bars.
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