Called to Service: OTFWPA NFL Woman of the Month Chanita Foster

 

“Called to be a server”, is the phrase that was placed in Chanita Foster’s heart as a child and has carried on to be her life long mantra. Mrs. Foster may be best known for working in sports, for her husband (George Foster a first round draft pick by the Denver Broncos in the 2013 draft), or her notable appearence on Vh1 Football Wives. But it is clear these things do not define her. What does define Chanita is her calling was to be a world changer and for this reason she has been nominated as OTFWPA/Pro Player Insiders NFL Woman of the Month.


With a stewardship mentality, Foster has begun building her presence in the non profit world. Mrs.Foster is changing lives in Africa through her fundation called, Beyond the Game. With a husband recently retired from the NFL,Chanita has turned her blessings to become known in in Atlanta as a up and coming philantropist. Her foundation is currently serving Swaiziland that rates amongst the highest population with HIV in the world. This AIDS epidemic is paralleled with lack of eduaction.So it has become Foster’s personal mission to educate and feed 1,000 orphans two meals a day, 365 days of the year. Monthly trips to bring supplies to her hand picked families and building a school in Swaiziland, on top of being a mother of 6, is all in a days work for Chanita.

Theresa Villano of Pro Player Inisders was able to grab Foster for an interview where she shares her stories of watching a malnutritioned boy walk, she speaks up about stereotypes Africans have of only “white” missionaries, and overall about her amdirable charity and blessed life in Atlanta.

Pro Player Insiders: Congrats Chanita and thanks for joining us. With the holidays behind us, I heard you were able to sneak in extra community service with fellow NFL wives. Tell us about that.

Chanita Foster: In December,I just did a community service project with Off the Field Players Wives, Sam’s Club, and Salvation Army. We’ve been doing it for about five years.We partner up with both organizations and go shopping for families for the Christmas holiday. They get $800 in product and $200 grocery cart. We’re the ones who take the list and we go shopping and then we wrap the gifts. The families got the grocery gift card so they could do their Christmas grocery shopping. The actual gifts we got were wrapped and given to them to put underneath their tree so their children had something to open on Christmas. Our wives group even got to ring the bell for the Salvation Army. It was really cool.

PPI: It was with Off the Field, so there were players wives who showed up. Who was there?
CF: Jamie Dukes wife was there, Angela Dukes. He’s a big time ex Falcons player. Now he’s on the NFL Network or ESPN as a commentator. I wake up to him a lot of mornings on my TV. Monique Smith, Chuck Smith’s wife was there. Rhonda Dye was there too. Overall,a good group of women came out for the cause, both current and former players wives participated.

PPI: From what I’ve read, your passion is giving back but moreso with your foundation Beyond the Game. What is Beyond the Game’s mission?

CF: “Beyond the Game” serves the widows and the orphans of Swaziland, Africa. Most people don’t know Swaziland as a country of its own. It’s one of the only few countries that is still run by a king. The biggest thing they’re known for is that they have the highest HIV rate in the world. What Beyond the Game does is we feed 1,000 orphans two meals a day 365 days of the year. Outside of that, we built a school that actually opened this year and then an education center. We graduated our first class from our education center in May 2012. Our first kindergarten class graduated last month and is ready for first grade. So we really are trying to change the AIDS epidemic in the country, also paralleled with giving these kids a chance at a future by educating them.

PPI: So, I can donate a pair of shoes or donate soap for these children?
CF: Oh yeah! Definitely. The easiest way to help our foundation is to sponsor a child. Sponsoring a child through our foundation, is way different than sponsoring a child through any other organization. I try not to bash anyone out there who does it, but I think we’re the best at doing it. For $30 a month you sponsor a child and unlike other organizations, we don’t recycle that child. Some organizations will send a childs picture to you and then the same one to the next person and then the next person. All of these people are getting this one picture of this one kid that they’re “so called” taking care of With Beyond the Game, when we assign you a child, that is your child for the year. So the $30 you spend a month goes towards that child. The relationship that you build with that child (the letters/emails that you send) we actually give to them to increase correspondence. I go to Africa every single month. So when people ask where my money is going, I can show you exactly where it is going. People also like the opportunity that if you sponsor a child through us, if you send a sweatshirt, I will take a picture of that child wearing it and send it to you. Most organizations can’t guarantee you that.

PPI: What has inspired you to take on this project? What has been that drive or feeling in your heart that has inspired you to do this?
CF: I think growing up I have always been called to be a server. For me, I started off in girl scouts and that was a big part of my life. I just think that people are born for different reasons and my reason was definitely to give back. That’s my happiness. That’s my passion. I don’t do it to receive awards or accolades. At this point in my life, I mean, I welcome all the awards and accolades because it just helps bring awareness. I think it is just who I am and I’m glad that I know what my purpose is in life. A lot of times people walk this earth and they’re not quite sure what their purpose was or is and for me I definitely know this is the purpose that I have. This is the path I’m supposed to be walking and it’s a good feeling when you can actually change a life and help a life and save a life. I think that’s my motivation.

CF (cont.): Then also, it is to be a good steward and example to my children. The position that we’re put in as athletes’ wives and my husband being an athlete. We are blessed abundantly with not just money but also a voice. I think that we’re supposed to utilize that voice and often times a lot of us don’t or they feel like they’re not a star on the team and don’t have a voice. I feel like that’s not true. We’re going to be called role models and heroes and let it be said that we inspire our generation.

PPI: What is an example of how you spend a day once you land in Swaziland?
CF: The morning when we land in Africa, they usually start when the sun comes up. That’s so funny because being a lot of the places that I am, the children and people don’t have electricity. Their day is dictated by sun up, sun down. So generally we’re up at 4:30-5 o’clock in the morning. We generally are preparing for the day for the children. When I’m there, it’s kind of like a bonus, meaning our kids get fruits, vegetables and meat. My day usually starts off in the market in the town called Manzini. I go into Manzini and I buy the things we’re going to need for the day, meaning whatever fruit’s in that season. Then I buy vegetables and meat for that day. Then I’ll travel to our care point. Once I get to our care point, I spend a lot of time doing follow ups for our sponsors. It it is such an intimate relationship that we have with our sponsors and children.

CF (cont.): I go down the list and find those kids that are sponsored and make sure that I get updated photos of them, find out what’s going on in their lives, or if they have their school fees paid. Then after all that is done, we generally sing songs, play games, and we give out our item of the month. Generally the item of the month can be anything from a toothbrush to a wash cloth or a pair of pants or some type of article of clothing. So we give that item of the month.

CF (cont.): Each care point has at least 250 kids. By the time you’re done doing that for 250 kids, the sun is going down and we’re actually going in. On a different day, I do a lot of home visits. We have created relationships with families at what’s considered a homestead there. A homestead is where a large family lives. The parents are usually deceased so you have older children taking care of children or grandparent figures, (which we call gogos and babas) that are there taking care of the children. So we go there with them, we take them food, we pray with them. We look to find out if any of them are HIV positive, so we can get medication. It is a lot of spending time and fellowship with those people.

PPI: Is there a specific situation with a widow or a child where you had that “Aha” moment, like this is exactly why I started Beyond the Game?
CF: I think I have a lot of “Aha” moments. Last year, my husband (George Foster) and I were there doing Christmas and there was a little boy (and it’s funny because he’s actually one of my little troublemakers now) between the age of two and three years old and he couldn’t walk. I was like, this is just so mind boggling. Why can’t he walk? This kid was getting two meals a day every single day. Heading into that second week, we watched that kid take his first steps. It was amazing to us because the only thing that was stopping him from walking was because he was suffering of malnutrition. He didn’t have enough food in his body or enough energy to actually get up and walk. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to walk or he wasn’t trying to walk. That was one of the really big “Aha” moments, where I said, “Okay I understand why I’m doing this.”

CF (cont.):Another big moment for me was when one of the kids came up to me and asked, “Are there black people in America?” I said, “Umm yeah.” Then he asked again, “No really. Are there black people in America?” I asked hime why he would say such a thing and he said, “Because they never come here to see us. We only see white missionaries that come.” That was another big “Aha” moment for me. As an African American, they see me as a colored person. They view people as either black, colored, or white people and since I’m a mix they see me as colored. For them to think there are no black Americans that want to help them is mind boggling. I’ve worked so hard and fought so hard every single year to get people of color to Africa, so they can see there’s not just one type of carring person in America.

PPI: I see that you have been pretty good at getting celebrities to be very supportive of your foundation. Has any celebrity truly stood out as a sponsor?
CF: Oh definitely! Ne-yo and Monyetta Shaw, who is his fiancé are huge supporters. Monyetta and I became friends right away. She became a part of this group that we call, “The womenwith no excuses to change the world.” Quick story…Jakeem Smith, who works with our foundation, went to her and said, “We want you tosponsor a kid for $30 a month.” In our (sponsorship) book, we put 50 kids profiles in at a time. Two people had taken pictures out of the book and she was turning the pages in this book and responded, “I can’t pick one kid. How do I pick one kid?” Jakeem responded, “Well, just pick one kid in the book.” So she closed the book and she said, “I’ll take all the kids left in the book.” He said, “Do you know how many kids are in this book?” Shaw quickly reponded , “I don’t care. I can’t pick one face out of this book and know that I’m leaving another kid. How do you pick a kid?” And I always make a joke, “I wish we had a pool of the total 50 kids that day.” We laugh, but she really sponsors 48 children.

CF (cont.): Aside from that, Ne-yo has been very supportive as an international super star. When you can get Ne-yo to come out to a Nancy’s Pizza, to a karaoke event, to say, “Hey, I stand up for what my fiancé believes in and I stand for what it is that we’re doing in Africa,” I think that is commendable of him. (Below: The band “Day 26″ giving props to Beyond the Game’s mission.)

PPI: How can football fans and PPI readers support your cause and what are you in the most need for?
CF: I think my biggest need is sponsoring a child. That money goes a long way. It’s $30 a month and totals up to about 300 a year. I think it’s a major commitment instead of just throwing money to various causes. It says, “I want to be a part of this.” It gives you a good chance to see what philanthropy looks like and what your money can do.

CF (cont.): In the smaller realm, shoes are very important to us. We collect a croc type shoe because they don’t have shoe laces. It’s a long story, but I tied shoes for about two hours because no one knew how to tie their shoes. The things that we take for granted in our country is just amazing. Anything though. I told people if you go to a hotel, especially for the athletes, they give you these soaps, shampoos, and conditioners that most of the guys don’t use. If you could just collect those things or get one guy on the team to just say, ” I’m going to leave a bag outside my door and put these in after every road game.” Our kids love those because they come in different scents and colors. They’re just so excited about it. They are so many ways to just change the world. I tell people to have a garage sale if they don’t want to ship items and send us the money. Just donate. That money can change a life. Most people think donations have to come in this huge number, but really $5 or $10 adds up.

PPI: How did you meet Mr. Foster?
CF: (Chuckling) Quick story. Seven years ago, I used to put on a Madden tournament in Atlanta, Georgia when the new Madden game came out. As I was out and about, I ran into my husband . When I bumped into him, right away I said, athlete. Most people don’t know I worked with athletes for eleven years prior to my husband. So I’m able to spot an athlete out easily from a crowd. But when I bumped into him, I looked up and I said, “Where are you from?” He said, “Denver.” I was like, “Oh my gosh, you play football!(I totally called it.)” He asked, “Why do you say that?” I said, “You’re 6’6″, 320 and black living in Denver. You probably play football.” He laughs at that and responded by saying, “You’re such a racist.” I jumped back by saying, “I’m not! I’m saying what 6’6″ guy over 300 pounds and is African American lives in Denver just because he wants to live in Denver? You play football.” That was our initial conversation. He made it clear he wanted to date bpme but I didn’t really want to do the athlete thing. He was persistent and i rmember him saying, “Just one date.” The rest is history.

PPI: What other teams has he played for besides Denver?
CF: He’s played for Denver, Detroit, Cleveland, New Orleans, and his last team was the benign of this 2012 season with the Colts. He was very excited about the 2012 Colts organization and very thankful to them (as a nine year veteran) for giving him the opportunity to potentially close out his career with the team. He was very fond of the coach. It was a pivotal moment when he signed his Colts contract. Ironically, it was the first person who did his contract with the Denver Broncos sitting across from him doing his contract for the Indianapolis Colts. This guy had went from the Broncos to the Colts. It was this great thing that was transpiring in his mind. It almost seemed destined for him to close out with this team. They got a number one draft pick in (Andrew Luck) as their quarterback. The head coach was just so amazing to him. But the disappointment hit when he got hurt right at the end of preseason. He just knew that last injury was going to be the last time he played football.

CF (cont.): I definitely want to say thank you to the Indianapolis Colts family for a guy like my husband. When you get older, you’re just looking for the one last shot so you can go out the game like you want to go. They were giving him that opportunity. So he’s very thankful for that. I am very thankful for that. The coach (Charles D. “Chuck” Pagano) there was diagnosed with cancer and so I know my husband was very touched by that. The Foster family is definitely praying for Pagano and his family. It was a very difficult situation for us to end up back at home this season, but we’re very grateful and thankful for them.

PPI: What has been your favorite moment watching him play?
CF: The one moment that was life changing for me was after Hurricane Katrina. My daughter’s godfather is Charles Grant, who played for the New Orleans Saints. He is my husband’s best friend and they went to University of Georgia together. Most people think I’m an automatic football fan because my husband plays football. I’m not a football fan, but I got invited to the Super Bowl. Charles said, “You have to come.” I was thinking it was just another game. There was magic in that Super Bowl game. For me to be in that stadium filled with the people of New Orleans , affected by Katrina, was electrifying. It was bananas. The Saints were America’s team that Super Bowl.

I got to sit next to people who had said they mortgaged their houses and did all this crazy stuff to get a ticket to the New Orleans Saints game. For them to win that Super Bowl was magical. I think that was one of my best Super Bowl moments.

PPI: What was your proudest moment watching Mr. Foster play?
CF: This is going to sound weird, but I think one of my proudest moments for George as a football player was when he joined the NFL Gospel choir. I know that sounds stupid, but I was really proud of him for that. I was proud to stand up and say, “That’s my man.” George is a lineman and his job is to block and protect. So to figure out if he’s doing something good on the field is kind of hard. George is never running the ball, or catching the ball, or throwing the ball, or making one of those kind of plays where people would notice. But to see him stand up for what he believes in, his religion, or something for young guys that isn’t considered popular, that was a proud moment for me.

For more information on Mrs. Chanita Foster (aka Mother of TeamFoster,Passionate Philanthropist,Entrepreneur,VH1 Football Wife,Baby Oprah) follow her @ChanitaFoster.

Also be sure to “Change the World” with her by visiting  www.beyondtgame.com .

 

–By Theresa Villano

Follow @Theresa _ppi @PlayerInsiders “Under the helmet insights to NFL players.”

–Ericka Lassiter,President of “Off the Field Player Wives Association” @OTFPWA  Contributed to this article

 

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