Deborah Sigler has had a rough year. The 53-year-old has lost her job, survived a house fire and has dealt with car trouble on top of coping with COVID-19 like everyone else in 2020.
Sigler was one of 15 people to receive some good news just days before Christmas when NFL linebacker Mark Barron gave a total of $15,000 to Mobile-area families.
Sigler said she plans to use the $1,000 gift on her 15 grandchildren for Christmas.
“It feels great,” Sigler said. “It has been a rough year for me.”
The grandmother to nine boys and six girls said her unit at Summer Place Apartments caught fire in May. In July she lost her job due to COVID-19 and more recently her vehicle has had issues.
Michelle Barron, the former Alabama defensive back’s mother, said that’s the idea behind the giveaways each year.
“We all need a little help,” she said. “A lot of people don’t want to ask for it.”
Barron, a three-time college National Champion who most recently played with the Denver Broncos, has partnered with Together Assisting People (TAP) for the last five years, helping Mobile-area families. During a normal year, Barron and the group would distribute turkeys to those in need, Executive Director Chris Rogers said, but this year felt different because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We normally do a turkey giveaway, but Mark said this year people are hurting because of COVID and felt that money would be better,” Rogers said. “Mark has a heart. He really wanted them to know he felt for them. He really wanted to step up and help out.”
Rogers, a teammate of Barron’s on the 2009 championship team, said 1,500 entered into a contest to be picked at random to receive the money. Entrants were asked just two questions: What did they plan to do with the money and how has COVID-19 impacted them?
In addition to the $1,000, Michelle Barron said the group put together baskets of household items and a bag of canned goods for the families.
Barron said she remembers being in their shoes when she was raising her children. The biggest issue she had at the time was trying to keep the lights on. She said she was touched by all the stories she heard from the folks who entered the contest and wanted to help.
As for her son, Barron said she was proud of the work he does to help others.
“I feel like a crybaby,” she said. “I want to cry. I’m so proud of him.”
In addition to helping Barron with the annual giveaways, TAP works with young athletes to help them develop soft skills and provides workforce training opportunities, Rogers said.
“You have to be more than an athlete,” Rogers said. “Athletes may not get a scholarship to college. These are things we wish we’d had.”
TAP, based in Birmingham, usually works with Title 1 schools, but Rogers said it works with more affluent private schools as well.
“It’s a blended model,” he said. “They all bring different things to the table.”
Councilman Fred Richardson was in attendance at the Figures Community Center in District 1 to welcome the Barron family.
“I didn’t want Mark Barron and his family to do such great work and come up there and have no one from the city there to commend them,” he said. “It was in District 1, so I figured I’d go up there and meet with them.”
Richardson commended the family for giving back to the community every year. Although he acknowledged that this year was a bit different.
“A thousand dollars to go home with,” he said. “That was big.”
Richardson added that he respected the group’s COVID-19 protocols. He said they would make the recipients wait in their vehicles and call them in one at a time to accept the money.
“They gave some serious thought to ‘how do we do this safely,’” Richardson said. “I thought that was great.”
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