Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.chargers.com/news/headline_detail.cfm?news_key=2565">Chargers.com</a>
<img width="273" height="138" alt="Shawne Merriman" id="image2014" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/03/343_shawne-shelter.jpg" />
By Casey Pearce
While eating breakfast at his Scripps Ranch home last Thursday morning, Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman came across a story in the San Diego Union-Tribune that hit close to home.
As a child, Merriman's family spent sporadic stints in homeless shelters, so when the 21-year-old Pro Bowler read that San Diego's winter shelter for adults would be closed 20 days early barring contributions of at least $95,000 by this week, he wasted no time in acting." The same aggression that made Merriman an immediate star on the football field took over and led him to immediately open his heart and his wallet.
"I've walked a few miles in those people's shoes," Merriman said." "I wasn't about to sit back and let the shelter close without doing anything." I started making phone calls right away and made sure to put my money where my heart and mouth were."
On Monday, city officials held a press conference at the Newton Avenue facility announcing that the appropriate funds had been gathered, and Merriman's $7,500 contribution was the largest individual donation.
"A lot of the gifts that we got were from institutions or corporations," said San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders." "Shawne's was an individual gift." That shows the depth of the feeling that he has on the homeless issue." " That sets a great example for everyone in San Diego."
Last year, the city allocated $595,000 to operate the annual winter shelter." The program provides single adults, families and veterans with food and shelter for 120 days during the city's worst weather period." But city officials were forced to spend $90,000 on repairs to the shelter, leaving enough money for only 100 days of operation.
"This is the worst time of the year for the homeless in San Diego because of the rain and all," Merriman said." " "There was no way I was going to let them be forced out of the shelter early." I'm proud to be a part of this and I'm thankful that others made donations as well to meet these needs."
On the day he became of aware of the situation, Merriman was scheduled to fly home to Maryland to take care of personal business ventures over the weekend." He arranged to return to San Diego early in order to participate in Monday's ceremony." Long after the press conference concluded, Merriman stuck around to interact with residents of the shelter.
"Shawne is amazing," said Bob McElroy, President and CEO of San Diego's Alpha Project." "Long after the cameras had left, he was still chatting with people and giving them his time." That's a true testament of his character." You won't find many 21-year-olds that will do that." I'm not sure how they hide his wing underneath the shoulder pads when he plays."
Merriman took time to sign autographs for shelter residents and hear their personal stories." Those in attendance took notice.
"We're grateful for the visibility that someone of Shawne's position brings to this cause," said San Diego City Councilmember Toni Atkins." "My hope is that increased awareness will allow us to soon be a year-round provider of such services."
Added fellow City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer, "What this represents today is the best of San Diego and what can happen when people come together quickly for the right cause." It's so important for all of our districts that we have these facilities because of what they mean to our families."
Merriman's heart for the underprivileged is evident in his community involvement in San Diego and in the Washington, D.C. area where he grew up." In January, "Lights Out" returned to the University of Maryland, where he starred in college, to host his third-annual coat drive.
As he left the shelter Monday, Merriman promised that his contribution is only the beginning of what is sure to be a long, endearing relationship with San Diego's homeless communities.
"This is only the tip of the iceberg for what I can and will do in this city," Merriman said." "This is my new home." I've been involved in several different homeless outreaches in the Washington, D.C. area." I've lived it." I know what it's like." It's very important for me to get out here and do whatever I can to make sure that this shelter stays open as long as possible."