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Homeless fans among those cheering Panthers in Super Bowl

Fans enjoy tailgate party at St. John's Episcopal Church

The homeless enjoyed a tailgate party,chili cook off and Super Bowl screening Sunday at St. John's Episcopal Church.
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The homeless enjoyed a tailgate party,chili cook off and Super Bowl screening Sunday at St. John's Episcopal Church.

Panthers fan Robert Lee Brown, 59, stood and cried like a baby in the meeting hall of St. John’s Episcopal Church when the team fell behind early in the game. But the tears streaming down his cheeks were only partly due to disappointment.

Brown was one of 60 men invited to the church for a tailgate party created specifically for homeless men, and the evening was one treat after another for the recently released prison inmate.

“Krispy Kreme doughnuts,” Brown said, pointing to a plate in his right hand that had five doughnuts. “I was in prison 15 years and it’s been that long since I had one. Thanks you Jesus.”

Nine doughnuts later, Brown was among the handful of homeless men who refused to sit down as they watched the game at the church. For most, the evening was not only a chance to watch their favorite team, but a rare instance in which they were invited to a party.

“We’re allowing them a chance to be regular guys for the evening,” said The Rev. Suz Cate, of St. John’s. “There’s something powerful about sitting around a table, with everyone rooting for the same thing. Camaraderie like doesn’t happen often.”

For Brown, a South Carolina native, it was yet another bit of proof he made the right decision to move here after leaving prison last fall.

“I got myself a job now, and I’m moving out of the shelter as soon as I get my tax refund. And I got invited to a football party. This is city has really touched my heart,” he said, going back for yet another doughnut.

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