The San Francisco 49ers kicked off their holiday giving season by serving Thanksgiving meals at CityTeam Ministries in San Jose. Through their service, the 49ers, in partnership with CityTeam Ministries, helped make the holidays a bit brighter for over 1,500 low-income citizens in the greater San Jose area.
Two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, the 49ers demonstrated the spirit of giving by teaming up with volunteers at CityTeam Ministries to give back to those less fortunate. A host of 49ers players including Joe Staley, Carlos Rogers, Blake Costanzo, and Bruce Miller were excited to work in the distribution center and food kitchen to serve meals to those in need.
"Every year the 49ers look forward to the holiday season because it's an opportunity for us to really go out into the community to be able to lift the spirit of those in need," said Joanne Pasternack, director of community relations/49ers Foundation. "The 49ers have been providing service at Thanksgiving for many years, but this year is the first time we've had the opportunity to do this work in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, as part of our co-sponsorship of their Holiday Food and Fund Drive."
The players were happy to be taking time on their day off to give back to members of the community who support them day in and day out.
"Today was a great day just to be able to give back," said Patrick Willis. "It means a lot because I know speaking from personal experience, I've been where some of those people today are standing, maybe not to the same degree but to some extent. And it's an honor to be able to provide service. They are what make us who we are, so it's a special day."
CityTeam Chef and Manager Reynolds Stewart expressed his gratitude for the 49ers' support and the significance it conveys to the community members to have the help of the team.
"To see role models, as the 49ers players and the organization come here, it lifts them up," Stewart said. "It gives them another desire to fight and move forward because they are recognized from contributors in the community and that's the 49ers organization."
The giving didn't stop there, as members of the 49ers family returned to CityTeam the following week to serve more Thanksgiving meals and help distribute holiday food boxes and turkeys to families lined up around the block looking for assistance during the holidays.
Julie Tomsula, wife of Defensive Line Coach Jim Tomsula, was one of the smiling faces welcoming the clients and she was eager to lend a helping hand. She also brought along some help in the form of four-year-old son, Bear.
"It's my favorite thing to do and I look forward to it every year," Tomsula said. "Bear's been helping out since he was a baby carrying pie around. I think he actually took a couple bites of pie last year. So, that's probably why we are outside today. At this station, you slide the food up and they have a huge line of people getting a turkey and breakfast food. We're escorting them out to the bus and telling them Happy Thanksgiving. It's a full process of meet and great and it's a great opportunity for us to help others and we love doing it."
By 11 a.m. the line for assistance was already around the block at CityTeam. Stephanie Solari, daughter of Offensive Line Coach Mike Solari, was among the volunteers helping in the registration room.
"I'm checking people in and giving them a ticket that registers them to receive their food and to leave with a basket of turkey and things for Thanksgiving at home, it's great," Solari said. "My parents have always provided so much for me, so I'm really happy and honored to serve people who don't have as much."
The families who turn to CityTeam Ministries are low-income families who struggle throughout the year to provide their families with proper food and nutrition. During the holiday season, these families seek assistance from organizations like CityTeam Ministries even more to help provide food for their families while budgets tend to be a little tighter.
Krystal Tukuafu, wife of 49ers defensive tackle Will Tukuafu, wore a smile as she served guests in the dining room.
"It feels great, especially before Thanksgiving, to get to be able to come out and do some service," Tukuafu said. "Right now I'm cutting some yummy pies and it's just a huge blessing to be able to serve others, interact with them, and just to be a friend."
"The 49ers organization has been a vital community partner with us at CityTeam," said Vernon Hills, director of development at CityTeam Ministries. "They do more than just volunteer serving meals and distributing food boxes to low-income families in need - they also bring awareness to the important issue of hunger and volunteerism to everyone in the San Francisco Bay Area. We are very thankful to everyone at the 49ers organization for helping us this holiday season."