On Monday, November 18, the San Francisco 49ers partnered with Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen and Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County to provide an unforgettable Thanksgiving celebration dinner, prepared and donated by Avenir Restaurant Group, at the Eastside Neighborhood Center, a center that provides educational, recreational, wellness, nutritional, and social services in San Jose, for over 200 community guests, mostly whom are homeless or low-income seniors.
"The reaction was a little untold," said Brandon Moreno, Community Relations Manager for the 49ers.
"They didn't know what was going on, but they knew a special meal was coming. As they were in the line outside in the parking lot, they saw cars coming in with these big guys getting out, and I think they started to put it together when they saw our 49ers logo." Inside, they found another surprise - 49ers staff transformed the dining room with upscale décor, including twinkling lights, centerpieces, accent pieces with pumpkins, and a large television showing 49ers gameday highlights. All added to the special feeling of the day.
Upon their arrival, players from the 49ers, including wide receiver Kassim Osgood, tight end Vance McDonald, and teammates Michael Wilhoite, Dillon Farrell, Fouimalo Fonoti, Garrett Celek, Asante Cleveland, Trey Millard and Jonathan Martin, as well as 49ers Ownership Jenna York and Mara York, participated in an autograph session before donning aprons and turkey hats to serve food, refill beverages, clear finished plates and clean tables.
"I am the official mashed potato master," said Kassim Osgood. "I am distributing a bounty of golden, smashed up papas.
"But the highlight of the day has been seeing people smile. It's important to see people smile and have some type of levity in their life, getting some good food and being a part of a great community."
In addition to satisfied stomachs, each guest left with a bevy of items to better prepare them for the winter, including a 49ers-branded cup, beanie, gloves and backpack.
"When the 49ers first approached me with this idea, I got goose bumps," recalls Annmarie Zimmerman, executive director of Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen.
"This is something our guests never get the chance to experience. We feed them, and we feed them five times a week, but this type of special treatment and this unique celebration with this wonderful food that's been donated is just an experience of a lifetime for them."
Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen, a non-profit organization founded in 1980, helps provide hot meals for all needy individuals, with special concern for families, senior citizens and homeless, on a weekly basis. They serve more than 400 guests daily.
With the help of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, which serves and advocates for families and individuals in need, especially those living in poverty, the 49ers Foundation was able to provide a meaningful meal for impoverished residents of San Jose.
"I'm just seeing people light up when you're putting food on their plate and interacting back and forth," said Vance McDonald. "It's been really nice just seeing them grow and light up."
The 49ers Community Mondays program is presented by Dignity Health and includes weekly events involving players giving back to the community in the spirit of the 49ers Foundation's mission to keep kids, "Safe, On Track, and In School."
A special thank you to Avenir Restaurant Group for donating the food. Avenir Restaurants include Milagros, Town and Nola.