by Andy Kent | Dolphins.com | @andy_kent
(Pictured: from top left: RTBC Board President Allan Weiss, former Dolphins player Troy Drayton, Dolphins tackle Andrew McDonald, former Dolphins player Twan Russell, Dolphins punter Brandon Fields and his girlfriend, RTBC AmeriCorps member Jazeeda Pelzer – from center left: Wide Receiver coach Ken O’Keefe’s wife Joanne, Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin’s wife Diane, homeowners Don and Mary McEnany, Dolphins kick returner Marcus Thigpen and his girlfriend, RTBC Excutive Director Sandra Einhorn)
When Mary McEnany made a phone call to Rebuilding Together of Broward County on behalf of her husband of 50 years, Korean and Vietnam War veteran Donald McEnany, all she was asking for was some help in their backyard with an overgrown sea grape tree.
What the couple got this morning was an army of volunteers showing up at their doorstep armed with chainsaws, paintbrushes and weed whackers.
For the second year in a row, the Miami Dolphins teamed up with Rebuilding Together to help renovate and landscape the home of a deserving veteran. Tight end Anthony Fasano, running back/kick returner Marcus Thigpen, punter Brandon Fields and practice squad offensive lineman Andrew McDonald donned some work gloves and went to work clearing out branches and other material. They were joined by Head Coach Joe Philbin’s wife, Diane, Fields’ wife, Katie, Thigpen’s wife, Joy, and Joanne O’Keefe, wife of wide receivers coach Ken O’Keefe.
Volunteers and staff representing the organization’s Special Teams program also chipped in along with former Dolphins players Troy Drayton and Twan Russell. The McEnany’s were overwhelmed by the turnout and the support of the community.
“It means a lot to me because I’ve got a few family members in the military,” Thigpen said. Just to be able to help them out is always good and my wife and I are here just helping out in the community. We’re doing a little light work and landscaping but it’s fun and I met the couple and they seem real nice and appreciative of what we’re doing.”
For Donald McEnany, the fact that current and former Miami Dolphins players were cleaning up his yard and beautifying the inside and outside of his house was an added bonus. The Miami Dolphins Foundation funded the project and he was just thankful for the help because at 81, it has become difficult for him to maintain his home.
McEnany has a heart condition, diabetes and is asthmatic so the project inside his house also was critical. The carpets were pulled out and replaced with hardwood floors and the plumbing is being replaced as well, and then next week new furniture and bedding is being delivered.
“All the work I’ve done in the past is being updated and it’s all stuff I hadn’t done,” said McEnany, who remembered planting the sea grape tree when it was just three feet tall. “It looks new and it’s great seeing this happen because I watch the Dolphins every Sunday and I’ve been a fan of them for years. I never expected this and I’m real thankful.”
This project was just another example of how Rebuilding Together has helped improve the homes and lives of low-income homeowners. What the organization does is field calls from these families applying for assistance, with many of them either elderly, disabled or veterans. Someone from the organization comes out to the home to do an assessment and to make sure the family meets certain specific requirements regarding income status and home ownership.
Once the initial requirements are met, Rebuilding Together focuses on “manageable” projects that will also have a lasting impact, which is how some of the other improvements for the McEnanys came about. The extra manpower provided by the Dolphins and Special Teams helped speed up the process.
“This is our second year partnering with the Dolphins now and I’m always impressed,” said Sandra Einhorn, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together of Broward County. “They come out and they really want to work. I always have to remind them that I have too many people that I know that are Dolphins fans, so I can’t really put them to work and risk them getting injured. But they come willingly and they come really looking to dig in.
“We really try to make a measurable impact for the homeowner. So it’s not ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.’ We’re not going to do something that doesn’t need to be done but rather we’re going to focus on what we can do to allow this family to live safely, comfortably and independently. This is also about the community as a neighborhood revitalization project that also helps the neighborhood.”
Earlier this season and also during the offseason, Coach Philbin took the entire team to two local elementary schools for beautification projects and stood side by side with his players spreading mulch and painting. After the second project he joked that his wife might try to put him to work at their house.
Judging by her contribution today at the McEnany’s home, Diane Philbin won’t need her husband’s help. She grabbed hold of a chainsaw and cut some thick branches and also carried some of the larger ones away out to the front yard.
“I like the hardcore work,” she said. “I like the chainsaw, pulling the tree down and getting right in there and doing the stuff that really makes a difference. We’re helping get some sunlight in here and our military and their families do everything to make our country as great as it is and give us the opportunity to enjoy football and just sit back and enjoy a relaxing day. So we’re trying to give them a nice, tranquil environment so they can sit back and enjoy their home that they’ve had for 45 years.”