The San Francisco 49ers continued their holiday giving season with their volunteer work on Tuesday, November 25 at CityTeam Ministries in San Jose. The 49ers, in partnership with CityTeam Ministries, helped make the holidays a bit brighter for over 2,000 low-income citizens in San Jose.
A host of 49ers players including Isaac Bruce, Nate Clements, Atiyyah Ellison, J.J. Finley, Manny Lawson, Andy Lee, Michael Lewis, Joe Nedney, Cody Wallace, Joe Staley and their families teamed up with volunteers from CityTeam Ministries, Union Bank of California, and representatives from State Senator Ellen Corbett's office, Julie Lind and Michelle Thomas, to give back to those less fortunate.
The players and volunteers worked in the distribution center and food kitchen to serve meals and hand out holiday food boxes and turkeys to the families who were looking for assistance from CityTeam during the holidays.
Throughout the holiday season, the 49ers look to give the community that supports them the joyous holiday season they deserve. That was one of the primary reasons that Nedney, his wife Gina, and their two children showed up to volunteer their time on Tuesday.
"During this time of year, it's the season of giving and thanks and this is our way of giving back. We brought the whole family out here to teach the kids how important it is to give back to the community around us. Looking at the smiles on everyone's faces, and being able to have a couple of conversations here and there and watch how it brightens somebody's day, you can't put it into words how much it means to us, but it's a very rewarding feeling."
By 10 a.m., the line for assistance was already around the block at CityTeam, so the players quickly divided into groups and took turns serving the families as they entered the building with hot Thanksgiving meals to enjoy at the facility. Once the recipients finished their meals they were guided outside where pre-boxed meals and frozen turkeys awaited with a player on-hand to help carry the meals to their cars.
Lawson spent his entire day working the outdoor shift, while sporting an elaborate turkey hat in hopes of entertaining the children and families waiting in the long line. The linebacker went so far as to walk one family with their food all the way around the corner to their car, located almost a quarter mile away. Judging by his broad smile, Lawson definitely enjoyed his volunteer hours.
"I love it," he said. "The community gives so much to us by coming to the games and supporting us, so I feel this is the least that we can do."
The families who turn to CityTeam Ministries are low-income families that struggle throughout the year to provide their families with proper food and nutrition. During the holiday season, these families turn to organizations like CityTeam Ministries even more to help provide food for their families while budgets tend to be a little tighter.
49ers linebacker Patrick Willis had first-hand experience with what it's like to need a little extra help during the holiday season.
"It's the season to give. It's always the season to give when you're in our situation, but today it's a special day to come out and I believe overall it was really worth coming out here and giving back knowing what these people feel like," said Willis. "Times were tough growing up. My family was the family who received gift baskets and turkeys and food at Christmas time and Thanksgiving time, so I know what it's like to see people out here."
Willis, appreciative of the place he's in now, added that he is grateful of the role he can play in the community.
"Like people say, you never forget where you came from and although I am able to go buy whatever kind of food I want to eat now, when I see for myself people who still have tough times, when you witness it firsthand it's really touching. There are a lot of people who have tough times right now, so that's what touches me the most about being able to help out today. You wish you could just do so much more."
Doing so much more is the reason the 49ers and CityTeam Ministries partner each year during the holidays. Giving back through food donations is a tremendous effort and touches thousands of people, as witnessed on Tuesday, but it also brings up a larger problem and helps to address the issue of hunger in our country.
"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 but 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".
At the end of the event, the San Francisco 49ers Foundation presented CityTeam Ministries with a check of $2,500 to assist in continuing the work they are doing to address hunger in the Bay Area.