A time to give back

Linebacker Mark Barron and center Maurkice Pouncey both hosted Thanksgiving food distributions to help those in need.

Barron helping his hometown

Mark Barron will never forget where he is from. He is proud of his hometown of Prichard, Alabama, a small town close to Birmingham.

And giving back to his hometown, that is something that will always be in his heart.

That's why a few days before Thanksgiving he hosted the Mark Barron 4th Annual Turkey Giveaway. While he couldn't be there because he was in Cincinnati for the Steelers-Bengals game, Barron sponsored the distribution which provided 1,500 turkeys to families in need of a boost at the holidays.

Barron was named the NFLPA Community MVP for Week 12 for his effort, and honor that highlights the efforts of players in the community each week.

"More than anything, when we do it, I sit back and soak in my own blessings, that I am now in a position to bless other people and help them out," said Barron. "It's a reflection time for me. I wasn't able to be there, but I look at the video, the pictures, and I feel blessed and honored to be able to do that for a lot of people."

Mark Barron provided 1,500 turkeys to families in his hometown

The turkeys were distributed at the Prichard City Hall and Figures Community Center. Barron's mom, Michelle Barron, helped to oversee it along with Together Assisting People Inc., who partnered with Barron for the distribution and brought in volunteers to help unload the turkeys from trucks.

"When the kids were younger, we had to go to the Catholic Social Services or the Salvation Army," Michelle Barron told Al.com. "When we first started, I was like, 'Mark, do you think a turkey's going to be enough?' He said, 'Yeah, Mama, when I was small, I was looking for that turkey.'

"I think it's a real privilege for him, and I think a lot of my son for doing this, because he doesn't have to, so it's a real privilege."

Barron said he gets so much out of doing the turkey distribution because he understands how strong the need is.

"People are hurting," said Barron. "People are going through all kinds of situations. Sometimes they can't afford a turkey, sometimes they can't afford canned goods. When I was in elementary school, we used to do a canned goods drive. It shows you the position people are in, that they can't always afford things."

There were a lot of grateful recipients at the turkey distribution, and while Barron wasn't there to hear their comments first-hand, he knows what it meant to them and that makes it all worthwhile.

"It makes me feel like what I am doing is the right thing because people do appreciate it and they need it," said Barron. "When I was growing up, these were the times of year everyone was coming together, families, the community. The holidays were a big thing when you saw everyone outside.

"This time of year is important. When I was growing up, we were looking for reasons to come together and celebrate as a community. It makes me happy that I can help others celebrate now."

Pouncey gives to those in need

Thanksgiving is an opportunity for families to gather together and be thankful for the blessing of a big meal with family and friends, while sharing stories and memories and spending time with the ones they love.

While it sounds like a scene from a Hallmark movie, there is the reality that exists in the world. And that reality is a harsh one.

This time of year, there are plenty of families that don't have the means to put a Thanksgiving dinner on the table. They don't have the luxuries many are blessed with, the luxury of enough food to eat, and that is why Maurkice Pouncey is stepping up once again.

As he has done for many years, Pouncey worked in conjunction with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to provide a complete Thanksgiving dinner for over 200 families in the Braddock area.

"We really appreciate Maurkice doing this every year. It does mean a lot to our families," said Charlese Hayden McKinney, Network Development Director for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. "This is a time when we embrace one another as families and as a community. It's not always easy for some of the families we serve. With Maurkice stepping in and helping to relieve the burden, it's something we are all grateful for.

"The need is fairly high. We probably see over 30,000 families a month throughout our service area. That number doesn't change, but different people coming to us is what is changing. But we always have folks coming to us needing some help."

Pouncey, who was joined by his teammates, including the entire offensive line, Mason Rudolph and Steelers alumni Charlie Batch, said giving back is something that is important to him, especially at a time when the need is high.

"This is awesome. To be able to give back like this during the Thanksgiving time, it truly means something to me," said Pouncey. "You guys know I give back to the communities I play in and back home. There is great support from them like always.

Maurkice Pouncey teamed up with the Food Bank and Giant Eagle to Giveaway a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings

"Just giving back means so much to me. When I was growing up, I was not as fortunate as I am now. I think it's important to give back to families who are in need at this time. It's Thanksgiving, it's for giving back and being thankful for things. I am just appreciative I am in this position to do these types of things."

The smiles were plentiful, with heartful messages of thank you being shared countless times by the recipients.

"It's a beautiful thing," said Carl Smith Jr., who was beyond thankful to receive the food. "It makes you feel good inside. (Maurkice) is a beautiful person. May God bless him and keep him. It shows what a gracious, caring person he is giving back to the community. It helps tremendously."

And black and gold was everywhere, with people coming in their Steelers gear to show their love for the players as much as the players showed love for them.

"We are coming on the holiday season now," said Ramon Foster. "There are a lot of people that we don't know are unfortunate. It's always good to give back, especially in the city that gives us so much."

The players didn't shy from hard work. They handed out turkeys, boxes filled with all of the trimmings and bags full of apples.

"This is an awesome event that Pouncey puts on every year," said Rudolph. "A lot of guys out here supporting him on the team. There are a lot of friendly Steelers fans here getting some good food. It's great to see."

Pouncey has reached out to different communities throughout the years, making sure he targets areas where the need is the strongest.

"It continues to show that folks care about this area," said Gisele Fetterman, wife of Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who was the former Mayor of Braddock. "To have them here, I don't know if they know how much this means to our community. Not only the food distribution, but to be present here and supporting our people."

Pouncey and his teammates posed for selfies and pictures with kids, shared hugs with people and completely felt the love the holiday season brings with it.

"We care about this community as much as they care about us," said B.J. Finney. "We want to take every opportunity we can to give back. When guys do stuff, we come in droves to give back and make sure the community knows we love them. I don't know who is enjoying it more, me or them. To come out and put smiles on their faces, that is what makes me happy."

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