A time to give back

On Thursday families will gather to share a special meal, giving thanks for the blessings they have while making great memories with loved ones.

Sadly, though, not everyone will have that luxury. There are those who don't have the means to provide a complete Thanksgiving meal for their family, who are doing their best just to make ends meet.

And that is why the Steelers have once again stepped up, working in conjunction with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to provide a complete Thanksgiving dinner for over 400 families in the Pittsburgh area.

Cameron Heyward and Maurkice Pouncey hosted Thanksgiving food distributions, doing what they can to help others have a special holiday.

"This time of the year is our highest volume," said Charlese McKinney, Network Development Director for the Food Bank. "This is our busiest time. We are seeing more people come through our doors. It's about doubled the amount of people who come to the food bank.

"It is troubling to see the numbers rise. The good thing is the community always rallies around us. We have resources where we are able to help the families when they come through our doors. We couldn't do it without people like Maurkice, Cam, and the Steelers organization. It's a good way for the community to connect."

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Pouncey held his annual Thanksgiving food distribution at Stage AE, aiding families from Pittsburgh's North Side. Pouncey was joined by many of his teammates and Pittsburgh Police officers, to help with the distribution.

"This is one of the things we really look forward to every year," said McKinney. "The Steelers organization has been great to us, Maurkice taking time during the holiday season to help our families. They are not only appreciative to meet someone they idolize and cheer for week in and week out, but also an opportunity to help relieve some of the stress they have at the holidays worrying about how they are going to put food on the table on a normal day, but particularly on a holiday where the focus is the meal. It's a win-win for everyone."

The smiles were plentiful, thank you was heard hundreds of times, and the feeling of love was everywhere.

"Honestly, it's a great feeling to do this," said Pouncey. "To see the smiles on their faces, have the conversations with the people. People are happy and it's great to give back. It's amazing to give back a little bit. To see the change in people when you do give something back to them. It's been awesome. The response we got was awesome.

"I have been blessed. I grew up and didn't have a lot of money, but I am so blessed now, me and my brother, Mike. To give back, to be able to cherish these moments with beautiful people like this is awesome. They are just so thankful. They are so excited to talk to us. They talk about the game, they say some of the good and bad. It's fun, it's awesome. The military are here, the police officers are here. It means a lot to us and we are thankful for everything they do and they are a part of us."

It definitely was a group effort, from handing out the turkeys and all of the fixings, to carrying the food to cars, and just making everyone feel cared about.

"This is awesome for us," said Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert. "Being able to help with the Steelers players and police officers is a special thing for us. We really appreciate doing it with them. It's great to see all the smiles as people are coming by. To see their eyes when they see the players is really nice. Just the fact that the players and organization give back to the community is what Pittsburgh is about."

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Steelers players helped families this Thanksgiving through the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

This is the second year for Heyward's Thanksgiving food distribution, just another aspect of his vast community outreach. Heyward provided meals for families in the Duquesne area, and was joined at the Food Bank for the distribution by his teammates and members of the Duquesne Police Department.

"I enjoy giving back to the community, especially at Thanksgiving. Handing out the meals and getting to interact with the people is special," said Heyward. "That is what it's all about. They are thankful, grateful and it's humbling. You are not doing it for recognition, you are doing it to help these people out. Getting to meet the people, they are so appreciative of it. it makes this well worth it.

"We donate food, provide food for kids and families that just want to have a good Thanksgiving. What better time for my teammates and I to help out as much as possible and give back as much as we can."

As families made their way through the line, they shared stories with the players and police officers, took pictures, and showed genuine gratitude and appreciation.

"You see tears," said Heyward. "You see the children and think about the lasting impact it has on these families. Anybody that takes the time to help. It's not just me, I have great teammates that help as well. The Pittsburgh Steelers care about this community. I am glad I have a great organization that does these great things."

Heyward said it touches him when he sees the kids, especially being a father himself.

"As a dad it does touch me thinking about these children that don't always get the right resources, or a plate with food on it every day," said Heyward. "I want to always make sure they have food on the table. When you see these kids, it hits home very quickly because not everyone is blessed like that."

The food bank serves about 40,000 families a month, which totals about 100,000 people, a number they aren't seeing going down. Getting help from others is something that is invaluable to them.

"With a player like Cam deciding he wants to go out and support the community this way, we help more families who need it," said McKinney. "What I see is genuine interaction and concern for our neighbors in need and that is important to us.

"It's hard to see anyone come through. But it's really difficult to see the young people and those faces of hunger. It's not a situation where they have control over what situation they are in. I know it's hard on the parents, but we are happy they are able to reach out to us and get help. It's a terrible thing that people aren't able to get enough food, but we like to look at the fact that we are able to support them. And support them even more with the help of many."

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