Dhani Jones spent 10 years playing linebacker in the NFL, reacting to every move his opponents made on the field.
When he got a call to help people impacted by COVID-19, he used those instincts to quickly join the team.
Jones partnered with nonprofit organizations Stand Together and Family Independence Initiative to raise money for families who have experienced financial hardships through the (hashtag) GiveTogetherNow campaign.
So far, they have raised more than $100 million to provide more than 200,000 people with one-time payments of $500.
“I had an opportunity to visit Stand Together at one of their events and as I got to know the organization a little more and saw the power of the community, I started asking how I could get involved a little bit more,” Jones said.
“And that was earlier this year before COVID hit. Then I got a phone call and they said: ‘We were thinking about.’ And as soon as they said ‘thinking about,’ I didn’t even know what they were thinking about, I was in. I’m a linebacker. I’m reactionary. The running back steps to the left, I’m stepping to the right. I’m gonna make a play. If the running back goes to the outside, I’m coming around the corner. I’m gonna make a play.”
To help raise funds and lift spirits, Jones hosts Stand Together Live on Instagram. He interviews athletes, entertainers, business leaders and philanthropists on the show. They discuss navigating uncertainty, identifying unique gifts and talents, overcoming obstacles, succeeding by helping others, and exploring how community has impacted their lives and work.
“There are a lot of people that are financially affected right now due to COVID-19,” Jones said. “There’s an opportunity here to really take the platform of which we’ve been so gratefully given and be able to extend it.
"People didn’t have the supplies for their family. People were not able to pay for their rent. There are other people out there that were just suffering. It’s really been a blessing. I’m grateful to be a part of the intersection where people can find a certain level of comfort and be able to provide.”
Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham and New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis have been guests with Jones on the show.
“I’m only one person but I do want to continue to keep doing and keep doing the little things and if we can get everyone to have that mindset we can do so much more,” Graham said on the show.
Guests on the show share their life stories and experiences to bring optimism and inspiration during the pandemic.
“It’s cool to see the genuineness in human beings coming out and it’s not about take, take, take but what can I give,” Davis said. “It’s amazing to see.”
(Hashtag)GiveTogetherNow works with more than 100 local nonprofits across the country to identify, nominate, and help verify eligible households for cash assistance.
“There’s a certain level of vulnerability and openness that you have to have when you’re asking for help,” Jones said.
“And so I ultimately feel a responsibility, too. Calling the names and saying the names of certain people and telling the stories about people that were struggling financially, I have been grateful to be given that opportunity. And it’s been phenomenal. And I think the response of those that are listening has been the greatest fulfillment as well, because everybody realizes that it’s one community helping another community.
"It’s identifying unique gifts to the people that are being interviewed and how others that have the ability, whether they’re giving cash or where they’re giving kindness, how they can contribute. And we all kind of work together in this environment through Stand Together.”
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL