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Coach keeps kids away from streets, harm

Jefferson Award-winner Richard Flowers
November 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The Jefferson Awards recognize extraordinary people who volunteer and make their communities a better place.This month's Jefferson Award winner is a coach who has made a huge difference in the lives of so many kids on and off the field.

In big, bold and gold letters, the title of "Coach" is stitched across the back of his jacket, but it's a word that only begins to describe Richard Flowers.

"The kids come to him with their problems, he's like their big brother, he's like a counselor, and a coach and he's a role model, which is very, very rare. And it's all wrapped up into one person," described Marvo Hider of Los Angeles Parks and Recreation.

Flowers volunteers his time coaching kids from 5 to 17 years of age. Some of the boys and girls come from low-income families and gang-ridden neighborhoods. Flowers has walked many of the toughest streets in L.A. recruiting kids to come play for his team.

"I'm trying to get them before the gangs get the kids, and get them to go to school before the gangs get them, and get them before the police officers get them, and get them before they go to jail or get killed. So, I want to get them before all that," said Flowers.

"To me, he's someone who personifies goodness, like pure goodness," described Kristin Norton, a parent.

Flowers has been volunteering as a coach for 14 years with L.A. County Parks and Recreation never paying a dime for his services. Flowers says that just getting the opportunity to make a difference in so many kids' lives is reward enough.

"I believe in just giving, and I don't receive nothing. God, the lord, will bless me in the future. That's why I believe I'll get blessed by helping kids," said Flowers.

"I observe the change, not just in terms of their abilities in the basketball court, but their whole sense of themselves, their confidence, their self-esteem and their ability to respect," said Norton.

Flowers is a former track athlete from Belize. He comes from a home with 18 children, and he sees each child he helps as an extension of his large family.

"I love to do something to make me feel so happy for myself. So, when I die, I know I'll go from this earth knowing I did something positive on this earth," said Flowers.