Gifted Green makes a return

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A.J. Green is giving back to his hometown in more than name only.

The gift is big. The idea is bigger. The name is the biggest.

The Abionce Andre Green Youth Center.

"He was a good baseball player. He probably would have been in the major leagues somewhere. He was a real good baseball player," says A.J. Green, when asked what his older brother would be doing right now. "He was nine when he died. I was five.  

"(He) would have been my best friend."

He still is.

When A.J. Green decided he would restore his family's old church at 1967 Summers Drive and transform it into a combination block of a Boys and Girls Club, a study hall, and a players' lounge, he and his mother, Dora, both decided to adorn the building and the plan with A.A. Green's name.

The banquet is this Saturday night and the dedication follows Sunday during the 11 a.m. service at the new Sand Hill United Methodist Church just across the street from the Green Youth Center in Ridgeville, a leafy village tucked on the outskirts of Summerville, S.C., a skinny post pattern from where A.J. Green grew up in the Clubhouse sub-division before making the Pro Bowl in all four of his first NFL seasons.

That's not a Cincinnati styled sub-division.

"Country," A.J. Green says. "Spread out. It used to be just mainly family, but it's getting built up now."

How country? You drive 20 minutes for gas or to school and if you're a nine-year-old kid you're running around in an endless backyard with a bee-bee gun and when you grow up your favorite show is "Treehouse Masters," on Animal Planet.

Dora Green, the mother that pulled the do-rag off his head when he was 12 or 13 before he went to the store, is one of them.  Her son has tried to convince her that she can retire. But she wants to get in her 30 years at Wal-Mart, where she is a claims associate, and she's not budging with a year and a half left.

"There's not poverty. Everybody works," Green says of his old stomping grounds. "I want to do something for kids…I got inspired by some of the things I saw in Cincinnati…Like The Boys and Girls Club…where kids can get the proper help they need in school."

Green is looking for "a Boys and Girls Club with the feel of a learning center," with tutors helping children with school work. It is to be staffed by church members who volunteer. The new church was built in 2004, so the old church has been sitting until the last three years or so. Green has yet to see the building since it underwent re-modeling, but now that the ribbon gets cut he'll see where his gifts are headed in the new facility.

"Computers, televisions, there is already a gym in the new church," Dora Green says. "It's a place for the kids to go to have something to do. Keep them out of trouble…When A.J. has a game, everybody in the community can go watch it there."

There was nothing like that when Green was growing up. School, that 20-minute drive away, was the closest thing to it. Now, he says, some of the kids are close enough to walk to the center. It would have made a nice spot for suddenly an only child and the only ones you're looking up to are yourself and your parents.

 "If you needed help (in school), the only way was to go back after school and it was so far away," Green says. "Why not have (one) place where all the kids can get together and get the same help if you have to go back to school for a tutoring session?"

One of the first things Green can ever remember is the car accident and the thing he still remembers is he was sitting in the back seat with his brother and didn't get a scratch.

"I'm here for a reason," Green says. "I had a lot of ups and downs in my life and I've made it to this point. It's just a blessing. Living through him. Every day I wake up is a blessing. What I do on the football field is a blessing.  Just to be here is a blessing."

So is a building with a special name and an idea to match.

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