Every day, nearly 1,000 families and 3,000 children come to Metropolitan Ministries locations in the Bay area for help. In addition to providing services to the poor and homeless year round, the nonprofit organization strives to supply underprivileged families with Christmas presents around the holiday season. This year, however, the foundation discovered it had a deep shortage of toys.
"We were running so short on toys, so we went out to talk to the community and get the word out for help," said Tim Marks, President of Metropolitan Ministries.
Help arrived on Thursday afternoon in the form of five large men carrying armfuls of toys, bicycles, board games and electronics to Metropolitan Ministries' annual toy drive. With their combined weight tipping the scale at nearly one ton, Buccaneers' defensive linemen Lamar Divens, Jovan Haye, Albert Haynesworth, Roy Miller and Frank Okam proved that they are big men with even bigger hearts as the crew perused the aisles of a local Wal-mart to collect toys for needy children.
"I just knew that when we all got together as a D-line that we could do something great," Miller said. "I got the idea that we should put the money together, and it turned out to be a great thing. Who would have known that a couple hundred dollars could have done this and made some kids' Christmas that special?"
Pooled together, the defensive linemen's contributions was more like thousands of dollars in Christmas presents. The players filled several shopping carts to the brim with holiday toys and gifts and then delivered them to the nearby Ministries location. The players were overjoyed to participate in the holiday contribution spearheaded by Miller, even though they had just finished a 90-minute practice at One Buccaneer Place before their shopping spree.
"We're very fortunate for what we do playing football," Haynesworth said. "I think it's great for us to give back. I really enjoy doing this stuff, and my teammates do, too. They all volunteered and took half a day off to come out and do this."
With the items loaded in their vehicles and smiles on their faces, the professional athletes headed over to Metropolitan Ministries to surprise families, staff and volunteers with their generous donation.
"It was such a surprise when we saw the players," said Tim Marks, president of the Ministries. "The size and stature of these guys and what they do for the community every day while working so hard on the field, and just coming here to help us out with the families that are hurting and are at a disadvantage and struggling, it's a real blessing. It's a real Christmas treat for these families."
CEO Morris Hintzman is grateful for the defensive linemen's contribution, which helped Metropolitan Ministries reach its need for toys this holiday season.
"We're very blessed to have the Buccaneers participate and round out the community's effort here today and show that it's not just the regular citizens contributing, but those who have leadership responsibility in our community," Hintzman said.
After unloading a seemingly endless supply of toys and gifts from their vehicles, the players headed inside the Ministries' large tent to the distribution center where they surprised children and families with bicycles and other toys.
"You could see the expressions on these mothers' faces, and they were the ones who were really surprised," Marks said. "We're giving really simple gifts, but for someone to get a bike, these children would never get that opportunity. It's those moments of expressions of love when the community comes together that really makes a difference."
Thursday's afternoon of spreading holiday cheer not only left a huge impact on Metropolitan Ministries, but also had heartfelt meaning to the players involved.
"We really had a great time picking these toys out," Miller said. "It really just struck a nerve in me. Just being able to be there and be Santa Clause for these kids is something special, and I hope we continue to do it every year."