JuJu making a difference

We all know the fun, playful side of JuJu Smith-Schuster, the one you see on his social media channels enjoying every aspect of life.

But there is another side to him as well, a side where he gives back from the heart to causes that have a special meaning to him.

That side has shined brightly the last two years through the Steelers' Social Justice Grant program, and for the second year Smith-Schuster and the Steelers are teaming up to donate to Meals on Wheels in the Pittsburgh area.

The Social Justice Grant Program, which is led by the players themselves, is an effort to engage with various factions, including law enforcement, charitable organizations, military and more to strengthen the community at large. On Tuesday a $10,000 donation was given to Meals on Wheels as a part of it, with Smith-Schuster and the organization combining efforts.

"At Meals on Wheels we run on a very slim budget," said Kimberly Delp, Senior Director of Home & Community Services for Meals on Wheels. "Our funding never goes up from year to year, so we struggle with rising costs in order to serve our seniors. It's a commitment not only employees, but volunteers have.

"This donation helps supplement that so we can get food out to our vulnerable population. Our seniors are struggling on small budgets as well. Last year in Allegheny County we delivered 455,000 meals to about 3,200 seniors."

And it's not just the financial donation. Smith-Schuster has formed a bond with Meals on Wheels, one that touches the senior citizens the organization serves deeply.

"It's more than just the financial donation. It's the meaning behind it," said Delp. "It really shows that not just the Steelers, but athletes are giving back to the community.

"JuJu being a young person, he is setting the example for young people who are going to be serving our seniors in the future. I think that is the message that weighs so heavily."

Smith-Schuster has worked with the organization, delivering meals to seniors in the past. His desire to help the senior population stemmed from him growing up in a multigenerational household and understanding the value and importance seniors bring to the family.

"Some of these seniors don't have a spouse, a child, a grandchild," said Delp. "It's the social interaction when that person comes to the home with food. That senior might not see anyone else but the person delivering the meal.

"JuJu's heart is huge. Some of my seniors here at our center, he calls them his Pittsburgh grandmas. We laugh about it. Truly they admire him, and he admires them. That is so important.

"One of the problems with our seniors is they have pride. They would rather not tell people they don't have enough money for food and medicine. They would rather cut their medicine in half and stretch it out because they are proud. It's a sad thing to see. Seniors are proud, and when the Steelers are able to give through the Social Justice Grant Program it's a no-strings attached donation and that means a lot."