Bon Jovi helps homeless vets

May 9, 2008 4:48:34 PM PDT
Jon Bon Jovi keeps stuffing millions of fans in their seats in his roles as Grammy Award-winning rocker, supporting actor and Arena League Football owner. Bon Jovi's most rewarding title, though, just may be philanthropist.

His primary mission has been the rehabilitation of dilapidated areas of North Philadelphia. Bon Jovi's already helped revitalize blocks in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, and on Friday he reached out to homeless veterans.

Bon Jovi teamed with Project H.O.M.E, an advocacy group that empowers people to break the cycle of homelessness and reach their potential as members of society, to help vets in need or with their addictions.

"It's a difference maker," Bon Jovi said Friday.

Bon Jovi and the Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation are part of a combination of funders that donated $3.3 million to support the veteran's program and upgrade the facilities at St. Elizabeth's Recovery Residence. The funds for the residence, which held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday and is expected to be completed in the fall, will aid a housing project that provides a structured environment for veterans.

Bon Jovi, whose parents were both marines, has a special attachment to the area. Bon Jovi helped renovate 15 row houses in one of Philadelphia's most poverty-ridden neighborhoods and donates time and money to the area.

"The idea here was to use North Philly, 23rd street, as a model to bring back a neighborhood," Bon Jovi said. "Not every home on the block was renovated by the Soul Foundation, just the ones that needed our help."

Sister Mary Scullion, who has helped the homeless for 30 years and is co-founder of the group Project H.O.M.E. in Philadelphia, has worked with Bon Jovi for nearly three years and said the singer is sincere in shining a worldwide spotlight on the plight of the homeless.

"He truly is a phenomenal rock star and it's hard to comprehend he's with us here in North Central Philadelphia celebrating these accomplishments," Scullion said.

Scullion said the Soul Foundation has donated $2 million to the local community and continues to aid Project H.O.M.E (Housing, Opportunities for Employment, Medical Care, Education).

"The Soul Foundation's romantic vision is that one street at a time, one neighborhood at a time, leads to one city at a time, to a state at a time, to a nation," Bon Jovi said. "I'm just building the model."

Wearing a white button-down shirt, sport coat and jeans, Bon Jovi took a break from his band's tour to show up in support of the project.

"I wouldn't be showing up for many people in the world, but with Sister Mary, you'll stand up here in attention," Bon Jovi said.

Bon Jovi has been majority owner of the AFL's Philadelphia Soul since their inception in 2004.

"Under the guise of sports, came philanthropy," Bon Jovi said.

Former 76ers coach Billy Cunningham sat in the front row and current Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks also stopped by for a tour of the nearby Honickman Learning Center, a residential community center where the program was held.

"It's all about trying to make a difference," said Cunningham, who led Philly to the NBA title in 1983. "It's about giving them a hope and a chance to believe that people care about them. That there is a chance to have a wonderful life."

Cheeks said he planned to bring some Sixers to the learning center next season.

Bon Jovi wants to match Cheeks and have his team make the playoffs this season. The Soul are 9-1 and can clinch their third straight playoff appearance next week.

"How can we not win a championship with Sister Mary," behind us, Bon Jovi said.


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