Colts players lend a hand to outreach center

The Baltimore Sun

An out-of-work bridge painter shot a question at Art Donovan, the Baltimore Colts legend making a visit to a city emergency services outreach center Friday morning.

"So, when were you inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?" asked Thurmond Lamar Brown.

Donovan, who sat next to his friend and former teammate Jim Mutscheller at the Franciscan Center on West 23rd Street, never missed a beat.

"Right after the Civil War," he said.

For about two hours, Colts veterans Donovan, Mutscheller, Lenny Moore, Toni Linhart and Doug Eggers helped this 42-year-old social services center get back in the business of serving meals to the city's poor five days a week.

"This is living history," said Brown, who visits the center several days a week for a meal. "I grew up in a totally different Baltimore, and these men are the Baltimore that used to be."

Faced with a lack of funds in 2009, Franciscan Center administrators decided to close one day a week rather than lay off staff. After two years of self-imposed reduction in services, they want to return to their mission of staying open each weekday, offering meals, help and a sympathetic ear. The center typically serves 400 hot lunches a day.

"We reopened in the coldest part of the winter," said Edward F. McNally, an attorney and former Roman Catholic priest who is the center's executive director. "We had 30 people the first Friday, 60 the next and 100 for the past two Fridays. The word is getting out."

McNally said winter poses the greatest health threat to the homeless.

"It can be a time of clinical depression for our clients. Their stress level rises when they have to make a choice between buying food and paying a utility bill," he said.

The former Colts are members of the Fourth and Goal Foundation and the Retired NFL Players Association. They were helping to sponsor the fundraising event Friday, called the Souper Bowl of Caring, an event timed to coincide with Super Bowl weekend.

"I've learned in life it's not all about you," said Moore, who wore both his 1958 NFL championship and Hall of Fame rings to the event. "It's about what you do for others. Years ago, I learned you only get out of something what you put into it."

For the next hour, Moore sat at a table and listened to men who told him they were out of work and needed a job. They asked for his help.

He told of his heroes, of how his coaches inspired and supported him. He mentioned Andy Stopper, his Reading (Pa.) High School coach, Joe Paterno at Penn State and Bob Perugini, a coach who befriended him in high school.

"These men were tremendous individuals and they took me to places I could not go as a black man," Moore said.

The former Colts signed autographs, told stories and listened.

But Moore and Donovan did no cheering for Super Bowl XLV.

"I am disappointed because we are not in it, even though we deserve to be," Moore said of the Ravens.

Donovan offered two words: "Who cares?"

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