Jonathan Isaac Hosts Seafood Festival to Benefit Project Life

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - Jonathan Isaac is 6-foot-11, has around a 7’2 wingspan and a 9-foot-plus standing reach. That length comes in handy on the basketball court, obviously.

But it’s not just his physical build that is so striking. It’s also his stature in the Central Florida community that makes a sizeable impact.

It’s his mission to lift his neighbors up through his faith and community outreach efforts. This is what he and his fiancée, Takita Thomas, set out to do on Sunday, Sept. 5 at J.U.M.P. Ministries Global Church’s Seafood Festival, which raised money for Project Life, an organization dear to the Orlando Magic forward’s heart.

The six-hour event held outside the Magic Mall on West Colonial Drive featured seafood, live music from well-known Christian musical artists such as JJ Hairston and Todd Dulaney, prize giveaways, a fashion show and more.

“When I think about the community, I think of everything as like a whole,” the 23-year-old Isaac said. “It’s not just about the community coming together. It’s about the spirit that’s behind it. What we’re doing tonight is fun, it’s music, it’s food. But we’re trying to develop a spirit that we want to be, which is togetherness, which is unity, which is all under the umbrella of doing it for the right reasons and why it's real important ultimately to give God glory and to honor him and to see people's lives change. That's what God is about. He's about redemption. He's about restoration and seeing people's lives change. That's what I am about. I think about the community as just this big circle of basketball, me as a person, me as a minister, me as a friend and just building that around the community of Orlando.”

This is certainly not the first time Isaac, who is also an ordained minister at J.U.M.P. Ministries Global Church, took part in an event to bring attention and awareness to Project Life, which empowers people to showcase their creativity while supporting cultural and global diversity. Last November, for instance, in partnership with Project Life he hosted the first annual “Hold Up the Lights” prayer walk in downtown Orlando where people rallied around their faith to unify the community.

In October 2019, a few months after being named a co-winner of the Rich & Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award and receiving $25,000 to donate to a charity of his choice, Isaac selected Project Life as his grant money recipient.

Phuong Hepburn, Project Life’s vice president, has seen Isaac go from being a shy, reserved 19-year-old during his rookie NBA season to now being a leader and mentor.

It was four years ago when Isaac participated in his first Project Life event. It was Thanksgiving time and volunteers from Project Life set up a buffet outside J.U.M.P. Ministries Global Church for people to come by and enjoy a meal. Isaac was one of those volunteers helping serve the food and Hepburn, the church’s first lady, remembers noticing the impact it was having on him and the people he was interacting with.

“When he did it, he started seeing how much encouragement (it had)," she said. "The people were just like ‘hi, how are you?’ Just to see that someone like him can come and meet us at our level and care for us. That spirit alone brings so much hope. That’s just a little glimpse of how he started. That was like four years ago and now here we are. Now he’s 10 times that. His faith, his belief, and his vision...His faith has grown, his love has grown…It’s been amazing to see his growth and his hope in his own self and his confidence, off the court (and) on the court.”

Their wedding 13 days away, Isaac and Thomas share the same goals, values, and passion for the community. Together, sky’s the limit for what they can accomplish in Central Florida and beyond.

“We are in agreement that we are a symbol of hope. We are a symbol to this community of hope,” Thomas said. “We are hands on in the community. Not just out in the public speaking, but we are actually in the community getting to know the needs, getting diapers, getting feminine products and actually serving it to the community.”

Also exciting Isaac is a return to the court. He missed the entire 2020-21 season while recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee that he suffered in a game at Disney in August 2020. It’s not yet clear whether or not he will be ready for opening night, but he’s happy about the progress he’s making.

“My knee is doing great. I’m making strides. I’m getting stronger and I’m just taking it one day at a time,” he said.

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