A former Sailors football player gives back to his community in a time of need.
A trip to see family opened Robbie Peterson Jr.’s eyes to the everyday effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peterson Jr., a Sarasota High football and track and field alumnus who is a freshman at Aurora University (Ill.), is back in Sarasota for the next few months. Aurora closed its campus for the spring semester, switching to online classes, so Peterson Jr. came home to be with family.
On March 29, Peterson Jr. found himself driving to his grandmother, Lillian Minns, to get a nice lunch. She makes great food, Peterson Jr. said. When he arrived, he found Minns and his brother, Joshua Ogden, and sister, Neveah Colston, plus others, loading up a truck full of food trays. Someone was going to eat it all, but it wasn’t them.
“They told me they were going to hand it out to people who needed it and asked me if I wanted to join,” Peterson Jr. said. “Of course, I said yes.”
The family first stopped at the Salvation Army on 10th Street, then the Downtown Sarasota SCAT Transfer Station, handing out plates of barbecued chicken, baked beans and potato salad. The family stayed at each location approximately 20 minutes. Petersen estimates the family handed out 80 plates to the city’s homeless population, and did so with safety precautions in mind, wearing medical gloves and avoiding direct contact.
For Peterson Jr., it was a fleeting decision, but one that left a lasting impact.
“We are all staying in our homes during this quarantine, but some people don’t have a home.” Peterson Jr. said. “Some people don’t have that safe place. Some people don’t have a job or a way to get food every day. I cannot imagine what that is like. The people who took the food were so appreciative, saying thank you and that was a blessing, but I’m blessed to be able to help.”
Peterson Jr. filmed parts of the giveaway on his phone and compiled them into a TikTok video, accompanied by messages explaining what his family was doing and encouraging others to likewise help those struggling during the pandemic. He said he will likely do another one of these food donations soon, and continue them as long as the pandemic keeps him off campus. His family has done them before, he said.
Peterson Jr., a defensive back, was named Aurora’s freshman football player of the year in 2019. He saw action in 10 of the team’s 11 games, finishing with 30 tackles, six pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble. His spring track and field season was cut short, but Peterson, who won the triple jump at the state championship meet in 2019, did finish second in the event at the Margaret Bradley Invitational in Chicago on Feb. 25.
His future has been on his mind lately, and not only for himself.
“Who knows what will happen with football, the NFL,” Peterson Jr. said. “I’m hoping I can make it. I want to be able to return home and give back to the community more.”