Jonathan Isaac Will Help Provide Meals to Orlando Children in Need

by John Denton

ORLANDO - Jonathan Isaac, affectionately known to Orlando Magic teammates and fans as ``The Minister of Defense’’ for his unwavering faith and his proclivity for playing high-level defense on the basketball court, has once again sprang into action to help others in need in this time of crisis.

Isaac, the 2019 co-winner of the Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment award, has teamed with J.U.M.P. Ministries to partner with Project Life, Inc., to provide hot breakfasts and lunch meals for school-aged children in the Orlando area starting on Monday (March 23). In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic keeping children out of schools and preventing many parents from being able to work, Isaac is doing what he can to help those in need during this time of incredible crisis. The groups will serve meals from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. five days a week (Monday-through-Friday) throughout the crisis.

``This is just all about trying to stand in the gap for the people in our community,’’ said Isaac, a nearly 7-foot forward who is in his third season with the Magic. ``This is what we’ve been called to do, and we take our call to Christ seriously. This is what we want to do, we want to be a light to our community. We want to stand up and find a way to help out.’’

People interested in assisting the groups to feed those in need can donate at ProjectLifeNow.org. Also, supplies and donations can be dropped off at 2550 West Colonial Drive, Suite 300, Orlando, FL 32804.

``We’re trying to do what we can to help families who are less fortunate,’’ said Dr. Durone Hepburn, the founder of Project Life, Inc. ``We want your support and we want you to partner with us so that we can get this done. Whatever you can do to assist and help to make sure this is done in a timely fashion, we would appreciate it.’’

Added Orlando City Commissioner, District 5 Regina Hill: ``We’re living in critical times and critical days. We have an urgency of now, and I’m just so excited to partner with J.U.M.P Ministries and Project Life and Mr. Isaac. To much is given, much is required and we’re going to need each and every one of the (Orlando-area) communities to assist us.’’

Isaac is the latest member of the Magic to step forward to help out those in this time of tremendous need. Just days after the NBA abruptly announced that it was suspending its season on March 11, the DeVos family – owners of the Magic for nearly 29 years – announced its intentions to back a $2 million fund so that hourly workers for Magic, Lakeland Magic, Orlando Solar Bears and the Amway Center would be paid.

Magic centers Nikola Vucevic and Mo Bamba were among the first players to commit to assisting with that fund, while Aaron Gordon, Markelle Fultz, D.J. Augustin, Michael Carter-Williams and Al-Farouq Aminu have also spoken of doing what they can to help out the workers who have been adversely affected by the loss of games at the Amway Center and Lakeland’s RP Funding Center.

Isaac said he takes great pride in being a member of the Magic because of how the franchise backs up its talk of making a difference in the community with tangible actions.

``Man, it’s amazing and I love it,’’ Isaac said of the work in the community being done by those affiliated with the Magic. ``Every single one of those guys are pillars and that’s what we all want to be – pillars in our community because we’ve been so blessed. We have so much, and we want to help others and pour ourselves into other people.

``So, shout out to all the guys who are doing something to help out – (Aaron Gordon), (Nikola Vucevic), Mo (Bamba), ‘Kelle (Fultz) and the others,’’ Isaac added. ``Those guys are doing incredible stuff and it just makes me proud to be a part of the Orlando Magic organization. I love that they stepped up and put money up for the arena workers. Man, there are no words for this because it’s beyond amazing. This is beyond basketball because it goes into people’s lives.’’

Isaac, who has been out since Jan. 1 with a bone bruise and a sprain of his left knee, was in the midst of his finest season as a pro before suffering the scary injury on a hard drive to the rim early in a win over the Washington Wizards. At the time of his injury, Isaac was one of just two players in the NBA ranked in the top 15 in both blocked shots and steals. In 32 games – all starts – Isaac averaged 12 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.44 blocks and 1.56 steals a night. This season, the third-year pro set new career highs for points (25 at Indiana on Nov. 23), rebounds (13 at Toronto on Nov. 20), steals (seven at Milwaukee on Dec. 28) and blocked shots (six at Dallas on Nov. 6).

With the NBA season delayed as the league attempts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the Magic have an outside hope that the 22-year-old Isaac might be able to return for the final few regular-season games and the playoffs. However, his return will depend fully on the health and strength of his injured knee.

Isaac, who recently became an ordained minister, said the current plan to feed those in need was given an assist by J.U.M.P. Ministries previously collecting food last summer to help those in need after the Bahamas were decimated by a Category-5 hurricane. The left-over nonperishable items from that effort will now go toward feeding those in need in the Orlando area.

Now, while working to feed those who often rely on free-or-reduced lunches at schools, Project Life and J.U.M.P. Ministries volunteers will strictly adhering to C.D.C. guidelines of ``social distancing’’ and cleanliness, Isaac stressed. For the meals that they will be serving, there will be a ``grab-and-go’’ policy to avoid having more than 10 people congregate together at once to avoid the potential spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to serving meals at the J.U.M.P. Ministries location, Isaac said his group also plans to deliver meals to those who don’t have transportation and live in many of the extended-stay hotels along West Colonial Drive. Isaac said that while the group of volunteers has every intention of staying safe, they also want to do everything that can be done to help those who are suffering through hard times now.

``There are guidelines that the C.D.C. has put in place and we want to abide by that,’’ Isaac insisted. ``We want to say, `Yes, we’re going to follow all of the guidelines, but we cannot just sit around and sit at home while this going on.’ We’re going to wear masks, sanitize everything, wear gloves and we’re going to keep our distance, but we have to do something.’’

``It all starts with Dr. Hepburn, Project Life and now J.U.M.P. Ministries coming in and trying to figure out what we all can do to help out. Now, we’re just trying to execute the plan,’’ he added. ``We’ve been hitting all of the stores and buying stuff and we’re willing to accept donations. If there is anybody willing to cook or donate financially, they can go to ProjectLifeNow.org. If they want to donate their time or donate extra can goods after they went crazy shopping, they can donate some stuff so another family can have something.’’

Isaac has always taken his position as a role model and someone that children look up to – both literally and figuratively – very seriously. However, he stressed that all he is doing in this situation is what any person should try and do – help those who are less fortunate in this time of need.

``It’s an awesome feeling to help out, but I take it humbly and I don’t want any glory. All the glory goes to Jesus and we want to keep this project at the forefront,’’ Isaac said. ``We feel an obligation because we have been blessed. We want to give back and pour ourselves into our community and help everybody get through this. There are some families who have been able to go shopping and they know that they are good for two months, but there are a lot of families out there that can’t afford to do that. We just want to be there for them so that everybody gets through this coronavirus together.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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