For 13 years Melvin C. Blount played on the field as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the 25 years since, he has been making plays off the field through his Mel Blount Youth Home located in Claysville, Pa., in Washington County, in an effort to work with today’s youth to lead them on a path to success.
|A REAL COWBOY—Mel Blount rides a horse and works with the cattle on his farm at the Mel Blount Youth Home, which reminds him of the land he grew up on where he learned his values. (Photos by William Mc Bride)
Blount, a native of Vidalia, Ga., grew up on a farm with a stable family as the youngest of 11 children. His parents instilled in him the importance of hard work and giving back to the community.
In 1970 Blount was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers as a defensive back, where he played until he retired in 1983. He is considered by most to be the greatest defensive back to ever play for the Steelers and one of the greatest of all time in the NFL, with 4 Super Bowl rings, and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. After his football career he decided to use his fame for more than just making money, but to give back to his community.
“As a football player I was winning Super Bowls, but I saw I could do more than just taking pictures and signing autographs,” Blount said. “The Lord just spoke to me that I could do so much more and because I saw how my parents were in the community. They were pillars of the community who were always giving and helping others.”
With that, Blount decided to establish his first Mel Blount Youth Home in his hometown in 1983 and later in 1989 founded one in Pennsylvania. The home assists boys ages 7-17 to develop mentally, physically and morally while teaching them to become productive citizens in society.
“The (youth home) is a replica of the environment I grew up in. We believe in family values, Christianity, education and respecting mankind,” said Blount. “We tell them (the boys), “We want you to be better today, than you were yesterday.’”
The goals of the youth home are to re-establish relationships, positive communication, and appropriate discipline, to create and set boundaries and to accept responsibility. It offers 24 hour staff and programs such as, a one-on-one mentoring program with resident Child Care workers, Bible Study, Counseling of all forms that cater to each child’s individual needs, an Equestrian Arts program and a Highmark Healthy High 5 low ropes course and fitness trail. The youth home also partners with other agencies, through its Inua Ubuntu program, which works to keep African-American children out of the welfare system by letting children of various neighborhoods visit the ranch to improve themselves.
“We have great success stories, if we can help one child we have made a difference,” he said. Blount estimates that he helps an average of 100 kids a year, not including the ones who come to visit from other agencies.
Blount said if he had more resources, he would like to not only help more boys, but also girls and individuals age 18.
Besides his professional football career, which includes numerous Pro Bowls and an induction into the National Football League Hall of Fame, Blount said his greatest successes are his family, which includes his wife of 22 years TiAnda Blount and his three sons, the kids he has helped, but overall when he gave his life to Christ and became a follower.
“I let my life and work speak for who I am. I care and have made a commitment and that’s why I do it,” he said. “Whenever you can get a child on the right path and see them grow and become a success, you have become one.”
Blount said he credits his success to his family values instilled in him by his parents and the fact that he has turned all his challenges over to the Lord. “Those are the tools that help you get through life. It is all about the journey and trying to give all you can give to the kids and get the most from our kids.”
He advises anyone who wants to work with kids that they help one child at a time; that they instill values that can be used for a lifetime, which he says begins with Christ; that they need to try to get a breakthrough by tearing down walls and gaining the trust of the kids; and that they have to be patient, insistent and consistent.
When it comes to today’s youth in the Black community, with the violence and such, Blount said it is the result of the breakdown of the family unit and the family values that are not being taught, along with the lack of supervision and not enough after school programs. He said that resolving these issues takes a consorted effort from community leaders, business leaders and church leaders. He said it takes more than just lip service, but action, along with a willingness and desire to make an effort to make a difference.
“I am challenging every Black man to stand up and be men, not only in the homes, but in the community, to make a better place for our youth, because they are our future.”
In his spare time, Blount spends a numerous amount of time serving various organizations and enjoys golf, watching his sons play sports and is an avid horseman. He sums it up by saying, “God has been good.”
(For more information on the Mel Blount Youth Home, visit www.mbyh.org.)