Thunder Helps Provide Thanksgiving Dinners
By Tim Farley
Thunder players Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins brought smiles to people’s faces and food to their dinner tables in the form of Thanksgiving meals that were passed out Nov. 17 at the Urban Mission in Oklahoma City.
The event, which was co-sponsored by Homeland, the Urban Mission and the Oklahoma City Thunder, benefitted 400 needy families that have been receiving assistance from the mission.
“The response (for this event) is a little scary,” Peggy Garrett, Urban Mission executive director, said. “We probably could have signed up 2,000, but we only had enough food for 400.”
All of the families who received the Thanksgiving meals qualified based on income and need.
Durant and Perkins said they enjoyed meeting and interacting with the adults and children.
“It makes you realize the most important things in life,” Durant said. “People were so excited to see us. It feels good to have an impact on the city. People support us so it’s good to be able to come out and give back. It feels good to have an impact on the city.”
Perkins said he felt blessed having the opportunity to be part of the Thanksgiving meal giveaway.
“It’s always a blessing to give back to the community and to see the faces of the kids light up,” he said.
The players and four members of the Thunder Girls cheerleading squad did more than just pass out food. They interacted with the long line of people who waited patiently to receive their Thanksgiving goodies.
At one point, a woman with children was unable to operate her cell phone camera. She wanted to take a photograph of Durant with her youngsters. Noticing the woman was flustered, the three-time NBA scoring champ politely asked for her phone, made the necessary adjustments and then posed for the photo.
Both players signed autographs, shook hands and joked with those in line. Several women – young and old – requested and received hugs from both players. At one point, Durant turned photographer, taking photos of Thunder Girls with their own set of fans.
Cathy Buchanan, an unemployed woman living with her 74-year-old disabled mother, was grateful for the holiday meal and the Thunder’s involvement in the program.
“I think it’s great to see them giving back to the community,” she said. “If it weren’t for this mission, there’d be a lot of hungry
Buchanan, who receives food stamps, said the turkey and trimmings she received Saturday will allow she and her mother to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Ursula Harding, who was in line with her two grandchildren, was almost speechless.
“It will be a good Thanksgiving now,” she said.
Hattie Summers, of Oklahoma City, thanked Oklahoma City and the Thunder for “doing what they do.” Summers described herself as a “big fan” of the Thunder.
“I’ve got their photos all over the bedroom,” she said, smiling.
Summers said she feels blessed having received the Thanksgiving meal.
“It wouldn’t have been as good without this,” she said.
Meanwhile, Sandra Perez, accompanied by her three young children, described the Thanksgiving meal as a “blessing.” Perez said she learned of the Thunder’s holiday assistance from volunteers at the Urban Mission’s food resource center where she sought help on a prior occasion.
More people like Perez are being forced to turn to local food pantries because they don’t make enough money to survive, or they’re unemployed.
“The people that come here for help are what we classify as the working poor, the people who have two or three part-time jobs and still can’t make it,” Garrett said. “We also have a lot of disabled people and senior citizens who need food. Every
week or week and a half we break records for the number of people we are helping. We’re seeing people we’ve never seen before. It’s really scary.”
The Urban Mission’s food resource center is open noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The scene outside the food pantry is often chaotic, Garrett said.
“People bring their lawn chairs and start lining up at 7 a.m.,” she said.
The Thunder’s holiday assistance efforts didn’t stop with the turkey giveaway. On Monday, Nov. 19, all of the Thunder players, coaches, Thunder Girls and Rumble served a holiday meal to clients at the City Rescue Mission, 800 W. California, and hosted a carnival for families at the shelter.
Earlier this month, the team’s Holiday Assist program began with a food drive, which netted 7,500 pounds of food thanks to fan donations and a tripling contribution from Homeland. The food drive was part of Gov. Mary Fallin’s “Feeding Oklahoma Food and Fund Drive.” All donations benefitted families through the Regional Food Bank, which will be able to provide 6,000
meals with the donated food.
Thunder fans can also participate in a toy drive Friday, Dec. 7. The toy drive is organized through the Salvation Army Angel Tree program. The team will accept donations prior to the Thunder-Los Angeles Lakers game.
In addition, fans can join a Thunder-led blood drive on Friday, Dec. 28 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Cox Convention Center. Blood donors will receive a Thunder t-shirt feature Rumble the Bison. This year, fans who give blood at other Oklahoma Blood Institute locations on Dec. 28 will also receive a shirt.
“The Thunder has built a tradition of providing a helping hand in our community, especially during the holiday season,” said Dan Mahoney, Thunder vice president of community relations. “We are humbled by how our fans step forward every year to assist our efforts and share in the holiday spirit. We are also thankful to our players, who have lent their time and resources to numerous Holiday Assist events since 2008.”
During the five seasons in Oklahoma City, Thunder players have made nearly 1,000 community appearances.
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