Shelton Quarles: World Class Athlete, World Class Person
Shelton Quarles is an extraordinary person both on and off the field. On the field, he played Linebacker for a decade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is currently their Pro Scout. Off the field, Quarles’ IMPACT Foundation, is helping at-risk single parent families win in life.
One of the programs offered by IMPACT Foundation is the Home Blitz. According to the website, “Each Spring, at-risk single-mom families are selected to receive a complete home makeover, including more energy efficient updates. The families are sent away on vacation as their houses receive the makeover.”
Quarles’ charity is one of many professional athletes’ charities managed by Prolanthropy. As one of the “Good Guys” in professional sports, Quarles started IMPACT Foundation in 2004 “to provide resources and opportunities to at-risk single parent families throughout the Tampa Bay area.” His foundation has raised over $600,000 and has “tackled the problems of more than 3,000 Tampa-area children, youth and their families.”
Listen in on Positive Impact Magazine’s exclusive interview with a true hero, Shelton Quarles!
PIM: There are so many places you can put your energy and attention. Why did you start IMPACT Foundation?
SQ: I did a lot of different things for different organizations. When I first started here, Coach Dungy was very instrumental in urging us to go out into the community. He said, “Our community supports us so much, it would be great to give back to them and let them know how much you appreciate their coming to the games and cheering for you.” So, I did various causes from the American Heart Association to football clinics and a myriad of different things.
Over the course of time, I got married, started having kids and my wife said, “You need to start your own foundation because your only off-day during the season is Tuesdays and from the time you wake up, you’re gone—then you can do the things you really want to do instead of lending yourself off to so many different causes.” So we started IMPACT Foundation.
PIM: How did you specifically choose single moms in need?
SQ: I was raised primarily by a single mother. She had me when she was fifteen and we lived with my grandmother and my uncle. I shared a room with my mother until I went to college. So, I have a heart for single mothers. I knew what she went through and the sacrifices that she made from the time that I was born until I left for college. So that spurred an interest for me to figure out ways to give back to single mothers.
PIM: Your mom must be so thrilled. Did you do this in her honor?
SQ: Yes, yes!
PIM: That’s really beautiful! Tell me more about your mom and the role she played in your life.
SQ: Well, the three primary people that played a role in my upbringing were my grandmother, my uncle, and my mom. I got something from each of my primary caregivers. My grandmother was a hard worker—she worked three jobs until she got sick and passed away. My uncle was a hard worker as well—he was a mechanic as well as a truck driver. I’ve got that part in me as well—I always want to fix things, take them apart and put them back together.
I started learning important lessons from my mom at a very young age. When I was in second grade, my teacher passed me and my mother said, “Why did you pass my son?” The teacher said, “Well, he’s got these big brown eyes and he’s just so cute—I love him to death.” My mother told her, “That’s not what I want for my son. I want him to understand the importance of a good education.” So, my mom put me back and made me repeat second grade. From that point forward, I started to understand the importance of academics.
My mom worked really hard at two jobs. I’d come home, do my homework, clean the house, and start food. She taught me how to be domestic. So my wife doesn’t have to worry about shoes lying around, or my stuff out of place. My car is always clean, everything is always neat, and my grass is always cut—that one’s from my uncle.
The other thing I got from my mother is the handwriting. As long as I can remember, my mom always had the best handwriting. I used to always copy what she wrote.
PIM: I read that you did calligraphy.
SQ: Yes! My mom bought me a calligraphy set when I was ten for Christmas and from that point on, I started just trying to trace what I saw on the paper. When I was in high school, I did the calligraphy on the diplomas for the four years I was there.
PIM: Does your mom live near you?
SQ: We moved her to Tampa and she loves it! Now she doesn’t want to go anywhere else!
PIM: How wonderful that you’re mom gets to see what you’ve done and all of the love and respect you have for her by starting this whole foundation! What’s the main goal of IMPACT Foundation?
SQ: Having a positive impact on our community—we do a lot of stuff with single moms and at-risk children.
PIM: I was totally fascinated by the Home Blitz idea—the rebuilding of single moms’ houses. There are so many ways to help build a person’s confidence. As a single mom, there are so many things you have to balance. How did you pick the home as your focus?
SQ: We started out with another organization and then we decided we wanted to do something on your own. It evolved several times to become the Home Blitz. We love having the opportunity to give makeovers to homes. We’re not trying to give a hand out, but rather give a hand-up. Then that person will help someone else in the community. That’s the most important thing for me. All of the people that we’ve worked with in the past have the same values.
The lady we worked with last year went back and got her GED and now is taking some nursing classes. You can tell the impact that you’re having on the family that you’ve helped.
PIM: I know you take nominations, but how do you finally choose who is going to receive that incredible gift?
SQ: They have to have a steady job and be employed for the past 3 years, be current on their mortgage, and show a need.
PIM: People might say, “Well, he’s a professional athlete, he’s got tons of money, but what can I do?” What would you say to the average person who wants to make a difference?
SQ: You never know what it is that you might like unless you try it. It doesn’t matter where you go as long as you try to help in some way, shape or form. You’ll gravitate to what you like based on what you’ve done before. Like I said, I’ve done different things in the community and this is the one that is most near and dear to my heart.
PIM: What do you get out of the IMPACT Foundation personally?
SQ: It makes me feel good to know that I’m helping someone else that’s in need. I read a book, Purpose Driven Life. In the first chapter, the author says it’s not about you; it’s about other people. If I can continue to live my life with the understanding that it’s not about me, it’s about how you have an impact on the community—and what you can do to make your community better—then I think we’ll all be better for it.
PIM: You’ve had so many successes in your life—what are you the most proud of?
SQ: Being a husband and a father. I enjoy spending time at home and spending time with my wife and kids. My girl is the oldest, she just turned 11, she’s 5’4” and then I’ve got two boys, ages 9 and 7. All three are really athletic! And they’re so smart! I love being around them—hopefully it will keep me young.
PIM: Your kids have such a fine role model with you on every level. When you do things in the community like the Celebrity Waiter Night at the Don Cesar hotel, do they get to come and see you in action?
SQ: (laughs) They come and stay at the hotel, but they don’t get to come to that particular event. They know what we’re doing downstairs, though. They come to the Home Blitz makeover. They’ve participated with backpack programs, giving away Thanksgiving meals to families in need, football camps, and golf clinics. They are a part of just about all of it.
PIM: As far as the future of IMPACT Foundation is concerned, what do you most hope to accomplish?
SQ: This is a big goal, but I would like to get to 100 homes within the next 10 years.
PIM: Wow! Do you stay in contact with the people that receive the makeovers?
SQ: We do. We keep in touch with the families that we’ve assisted over the past 4-5 years. We still continue to give stuff to them, if they are in need during the holiday season, for example.
PIM: You’re mom must be so proud.
SQ: (laughs) Yea, she’s a good lady. She deserves all the good that she gets.
PIM: What’s it been like to work with Prolanthropy, the folks who manage your charity?
SQ: The staff at Prolanthropy has done a great job for me and I look forward to working with them for many years. I’ve really enjoyed working with the team at Prolanthropy—they’re truly professional. They’ve taken my vision and executed it way beyond my expectations.
For more information about IMPACT Foundation, go to www.sheltonquarles.org/