WR Keenan McCardell distributed 87 turkeys to local families on Tuesday
Every time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have needed it, wide receiver Keenan McCardell has delivered.
On Tuesday, number 87 delivered again.
In what has become a Thanksgiving tradition for McCardell and his family, the clutch receiver spent Tuesday morning delivering 87 turkeys to churches, shelters and homeless centers all over Tampa. Among his stops were the Alpha House, Baylife Safe Place, Church Without Walls, Mercy House, Tampa Crossroads for Women, Salvation Army and Santa Maria Mission.
"We are here giving out turkeys for Thanksgiving to places that need it so they can feed a lot of people," said McCardell. "It's something that I've been doing for a long time and it's a way to help out and give back to the community."
McCardell has only been a Buccaneer for two seasons, but he ran the same program in Jacksonville as a member of the Jaguars for five years before coming to Tampa. This is his second Thanksgiving delivery run in Tampa.
The only problem the Houston native has encountered in his seven years of delivering turkeys to those in need is a disbelieving stare or two.
"A lot of times they don't believe that its me delivering the turkeys," said McCardell with a laugh. "They're like, 'You just played.' But I want to see people just as happy as I am during the holidays."
On Tuesday, McCardell went a long way towards reaching that goal.
Gramatica and Lynch Deliver, Too
Later on Tuesday, Buccaneers Martin Gramatica and John Lynch teamed up with Feed the Children to donate 400 food boxes and 400 household item boxes to families in need at Metropolitan Ministries.
Feed the Children is a non-profit relief agency that delivers food, medicine, clothing and other necessities to families who lack them due to famine, war, poverty or natural disaster. Over the last 25 years, Feed the Children has donated these essentials in all 50 states as well as 51 other countries.
"I'm here to help the people of our community who need a little help in providing a meal for their families," said Lynch. "I'm here to announce a great partnership between Feed the Children, a terrific organization that's celebrating it's 25th anniversary of helping children around the world, and Metropolitan Ministries, which has been feeding needy families in Tampa Bay since 1972."
Metropolitan Ministries is one of America's most effective and innovative caregivers for the homeless and those at-risk of becoming homeless. They help such people in need in the Bay area community through a broad range of programs and services that alleviate suffering, promote dignity and instill self-sufficiency.
The food boxes that Gramatica and Lynch dropped off contained cans and boxes of non-perishable foods like stuffing, peas, corn, instant mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. The boxes of household items contained toothpaste, deodorant, cleaning products, soap and shampoo. After helping to put the boxes together, Gramatica and Lynch spent some time delivering them to the cars waiting in line.
"You see the people picking up turkeys and they have smiles on their faces because they're going to be bringing a nice Thanksgiving meal home to their families," said Lynch. "That tells you what this is all about. It tells you that there are a lot of needy people. It's neat to see the cars pull up that are donating things and then it goes through the assembly line and it ends up where it's supposed to, and you see how happy the people are."
More Help for Metropolitan Ministries
Veterans Gramatica and Lynch weren't the only Buccaneers to help out at Metropolitan Ministries this week.
Buccaneer players Vinny Ciurciu, Anthony Davis, Austin King, Travaris Robinson, Chris Simms and Dewayne White, all rookies, joined Buccaneers Women's Organization members Heidi Dilger, Cindy Gruden, Barbara Marinelli, Barbara Muir, Linda Ruskell, Beth Tupa and Natalie Whittle at the Ministries' facilities on Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, several Buccaneer cheerleaders and Student Advisory Board members spent their late mornings and early afternoons helping at the food tent.
Over the course of the holiday season, hundreds of volunteers from local schools, churches and community groups take a break from their busy schedules to throw on a green apron and help out at the Metropolitan Ministries food tent. As they are each year, the many Buccaneer representatives were eager to join in the efforts.
For those who have never had the pleasure of working in the Metropolitan Ministries food tent during the holiday season, the scene is busy but well organized.
The inside of the tent resembles a highly productive assembly line, staffed by grinning volunteers. Donated goods pour in one end and leave the other in fully-assembled food boxes, brimming over with everything necessary for a large Thanksgiving feast.
Individuals or organizations donating food are greeted by the first set of volunteers, who help unload the food from vehicles and weigh it in. Other helpers then place the donated food into a large bin, where it is sorted in to smaller, categorized bins – green vegetables, canned fruit, stuffing, gravy, etc. – by yet another group of volunteers. The sorted food is then taken to the assembly line and placed in front of more helpers. As the food baskets roll down the line, they are loaded with all the makings of a holiday meal, including several kinds of vegetables, cranberry sauce, stuffing, dinner rolls, fruit, rice, gravy, cereal and crackers.
Finally, the baskets are taken to the other side of the tent and distributed, along with a healthy-sized turkey, to those in need.
Over the course of two days, the Buccaneer volunteers participated in each of the above tasks.
Simms, for instance, handled the placement of stuffing into every food box and considered his station to be the most important one on the line.
"If you ask my opinion, I'm not eating the turkey and the mashed potatoes without the stuffing," joked the rookie quarterback. "To me, the stuffing is everything. You have to have it."
Cindy Gruden knew that the volunteers' happy presence was as important as the goods being distributed.
"It's very important to let them know that someone cares for them," said Gruden. "It's more than the food, it's that people are reaching out to help others."
This year, Metropolitan Ministries' goal is to feed over 9,500 families during the holiday season. That will require the donation of more than 725,000 pounds of goods. The help of the hundreds of volunteers and the generosity of Bay Area citizens will be essential in meeting that goal.
Nece, Phillips Visit Falkenburg Academy
With dozens of Bucs were lending helping hands at Metropolitan Ministries, linebacker Ryan Nece and safety Jermaine Phillips were heading to Falkenburg Academy to deliver another Thanksgiving feast to the Academy's residents.
Falkenburg Academy is a paramilitary program designed to teach youth discipline by utilizing drill and ceremonies, compliance to rules, physical conditioning and an active daily schedule. Learning takes place in the form of classes in substance abuse, life skills, vocational training, anger management, rational emotive therapy and academics, designed to culminate in obtaining a GED or high school diploma.
During their visit to the Academy, Nece and Phillips dropped off enough turkeys, side dishes and desserts to give the entire Falkenburg community a very filling Thanksgiving meal. The two Buccaneers also took time to visit several of the classrooms at the Academy and talk with the students about the importance of making informed decisions, as well as the impact poor decisions can have on their futures.
Before Nece and Phillips departed, 15 senior students treated the duo to a rousing step show they planned to perform at their graduation on Wednesday, just in time to be home for Thanksgiving.
Brooks' Dinner Donation
The Buccaneers' concluded their Thanksgiving week community events with the annual Derrick Brooks Dinner Donation.
Brooks, with the help of Winn-Dixie Super Markets, donated 100 thanksgiving dinners to families whose children attend the Belmont Heights, Brandon and Ybor City Boys & Girls Clubs. Brooks, who is in his fifth year of sponsoring this event, gave away meals that included a Thanksgiving turkey, green beans, corn, potatoes, dinner rolls and dessert.
Brooks enjoyed meeting the families and wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving.
"Obviously, coming here after a win on Monday night makes everything a lot better," said the Pro Bowl linebacker. "Everyone is wishing our team well and at the same time they're thankful for the gift that they're receiving."
Many of the people in attendance knew Brooks from his Brooks' Bunch educational field trips and Christmas programs at the Boys & Girls Clubs, but even those that had never met him before were grateful for his helping hand.
"He's a great person," said one recipient. "To do this year after year just shows how much he cares."
Brooks was simply pleased to be able to help those who have given him so much love and affection over the past nine seasons.
"Every time that I visit my kids it warms my heart to see their innocence," said Brooks. "They're excited just to see you and be a part of it and it's even more special to me because they see more than a football player. They see a guy that cares about them and I get just as much from seeing these kids as they get from seeing me."