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Union: Warriors is a point of refuge

AARON’S AND THE DECATUR COUNTY WARRIORS were the program for Thursday’s Bainbridge-Decatur County Chamber of Commerce breakfast. From the left, are Chamber President Diane Strickland, Nathaneel Union, founder of the Warriors; Benjamin Duncan, general manager of Aaron’s, and Matt Palmer, the chairman of the chamber.|Carol Heard

A relatively new resident of Bainbridge says his program—Decatur County Warriors—is not only about football—its about offering a point of refuge for the area’s youth.

Nathaneel Union, the founder of the Decatur County Warriors football program, told Bainbridge-Decatur County Chamber of Commerce members Thursday during their monthly breakfast that he wants to reach the kids who don’t have parental support.

Aaron’s, which is located at 1400 Tallahassee Hwy., sponsored the breakfast, but turned part of the program over to Union.

Benjamin Duncan, the general manager of the local store, is a corporate sponsor of the Decatur County Warriors and said he has been impressed with the work Union has been doing with the area’s youth.

Union said he has worked with approximately 150 kids who range in age from 5 to 13 years old. The faith-based program has been in existence for one about year.

The Warriors, which is free to each child, has offered football and cheerleading, but he wants to expand it by offering baseball and basketball.

“Why? Because I want to know what the kids are doing. I know what they are doing on a basketball court. I know what they are doing on a football field. I know what they are doing on a baseball field,” Union said.

Union grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla., mainly staying in foster care homes and juvenile detention centers. He said he turned 18 years old while in foster care.

“My passion is for our youth, because kids don’t choose their lives. They don’t choose their moms. They don’t choose their dads. They don’t choose what path is laid before them, so they don’t have a choice,” Union said. “They have to deal with what they are handed.”

But what he does want to show them is discipline, how to be leaders and followers, and “showing them how to overcome obstacles, showing them how to change and find something outside of what they see,” Union said.

Often times the only thing some kids see are drug dealers, but Union said he wants to instill in the kids to get their education, stay focused and that they can still have a nice car and house, without doing anything illegal.

“I want them to be productive citizens,” Union said. “I know if I give them more of this good stuff, guess what? They will refuse the negative stuff, the bad stuff. That’s what our program is built on.”

It’s not about sports either, Union said.

“I’m using sports to draw them in, but I’m doing something else. I’m giving them a leader to look at. That’s what I’m giving them. I’m giving them me. I’m giving them my life,” said Union, who is married with six children of his own.

Union said the program doesn’t necessarily need money, but it needs volunteers, shoes, cleats and other necessities.

Duncan also briefly talked about Aaron’s, which he said is more of a furniture store. He said the store does offer lease agreements with the items in its store, but he said the store has competitive cash prices on all those items as well.

He said Aaron’s started in 1957 offering 10 folding chairs for 10 cents a day.

Duncan said if local residents or businesses want to assist with the Decatur County Warriors program that they can contact the store at 248-0290 or e-mail Duncan at C1168@aaronrents.com.