Rookie LB Marquis Cooper helps put together holiday meals at Metropolitan Ministries
"Come on boys, keep it moving!"
Jeb Terry and Scott Jackson have heard it before. They heard it again Tuesday afternoon, but their offensive line coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was nowhere to be found. No, it wasn't Bill Muir exhorting his young linemen to greater effort on this afternoon; rather, the orders came from Barbara Muir, who was happily working alongside her husband's protégés at the Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent.
This past Tuesday and Wednesday, Buccaneer players, cheerleaders, Women's Organization members and Student Advisory Board helpers were among the thousands of volunteers who helped Metropolitan Ministries pack and distribute upwards of 320,000 pounds of food to 10,000 disadvantaged and homeless families in the Tampa Bay community.
On Tuesday Buccaneer Rookie Club members Terry, Jackson, Marquis Cooper, Nate Lawrie and Josh Savage were joined by members of the Women's Organization as well as veteran players Greg Comella, Jeff Gooch and Ryan Nece at the Holiday Tent.
Gooch, who returned to the Buccaneers and the Tampa area after a two-year hiatus, found the work to be particularly fulfilling.
"I think it's a big thing when some of the players can come out and do work in the community," said Gooch. "For something like Thanksgiving, we're so thankful for a lot of things we have in our lives. We're just happy to come out and do our part in the community.
"You fill up one box and you think about how many people that will affect – that really touches your heart. We're just happy to be a part of this today."
Gooch, Cooper, Jackson, Nece, Savage and Terry packed boxes with food in assembly-line fashion, then gave them to Comella and Lawrie, who helped families carry them out.
"Being here definitely makes me thankful," said Terry. "Putting work in for people who aren't as blessed as some of us are and being able to help them have a good Thanksgiving is great. It's nice to be able to help these people out with some of our time on our off day – it's really great to be out here."
While the players packed and distributed food, Women's Organization members Kiersten Allen, Jeanne Bisaccia, Heidi Dilger, Cindy Gruden, Meagan Jurevicius, Nikki Johnson, Muir, Danielle Simms, Mia Tomlin, Terry Valero and Ellen Woods helped process donations and sort food. Cindy, wife of Head Coach Jon Gruden, brought the her two oldest sons and her mother to help out as well.
"Helping others is something that's very important," said Gruden. "This is a great opportunity – it's an easy thing for us to do and a great way to volunteer. We just feel so blessed for what we have – we never try to take that for granted. Helping people and giving something back is something I want to give back to the kids."
On Wednesday, Buccaneer Cheerleaders Andrea Gordillo, Carol Mays, Laine Melendy, Juneanne Nguyen, Michelle Penaranda and Victoria Vodar served alongside Student Advisory Board members.
Metropolitan Ministries President Morris Hintzman was glad to see all the members from the Buccaneers organization helping out.
"I think it's important for high-profile people in the community to demonstrate leadership in practical ways," said Hintzman. "To see people like the Buccaneer players, wives, cheerleaders and Student Advisory Board in here inspires and encourages others to go out and do the same."
Metropolitan Ministries is still in need of volunteers to provide assistance during the holiday season. For information on how you can contribute, log on to www.metromin.org.