A time to share, a time to care


Hunger doesn't have a face. It doesn't have a race. It's doesn't have an age or gender.

Many Steelers players get in the spirit of the holiday by providing a Thanksgiving feast with all the trimmings to those in need.

But it does have an ally. The Pittsburgh Steelers.

For years the Steelers have given back to the community, especially around the holidays, and that continued with multiple food distributions in the Pittsburgh area, as well as in several players' hometowns.

"Having key partners like the Steelers coming together, I know we can meet the need," said Lisa Scales, President and CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank that benefits from the local distributions. "I feel overwhelmed with the generosity of spirit from the players, volunteers and Steelers. We are truly blessed to have this kind of community support.

"To have the Steelers and players step up and choose neighborhoods to give back to means a lot to us. We do serve people in each community."

Will Johnson and Mike Mitchell joined forces to provide a full Thanksgiving meal for 200 plus families in Pittsburgh's Hazelwood neighborhood, and had plenty of teammates and their families on hand to help.

"I am definitely blessed," said Johnson, who is in the second year of doing the giveaway along with his wife Jessica. "This is a great opportunity for me and some of my former and current teammates to come out and give back to the community. We are blessed and fortunate to be in the position we are. It's a great thing to use our platform to do something good in the community.

"It means a lot to everyone here to see a smile on someone's face. I wasn't always in the position I am in now so it's near and dear to my heart. It's a blessing for myself and the people receiving the meals to be able to provide for their families, for their kids."

Mitchell took part with Johnson this year, knowing that the need is there and if you have the ability to help, then you should. Smiles were plentiful as everyone received a turkey, potatoes, carrots, and a box filled with all the other essentials and treats as well, and that was rewarding for the players.

"I actually had a lady tell me that this made her Thanksgiving," said Mitchell. "She is going to be able to cook for her family. That in a nutshell makes this awesome. That is what God has called us here today to do. Every person should want to help the next man. If you have it, you should give it. I am no different. I just want to do my part to help people.

"It's really about love. Just to show people love by helping them with a good meal, you can make them feel better about themselves, make them realize there is someone out there that cares about them. There are a lot of people in those situations that feel alone because of the hardships on them. They feel all alone. It's just about helping them and giving back."

Coach Mike Tomlin has quietly done a turkey distribution in the Pittsburgh area, bringing his family along to help to teach his kids the importance and value of giving back and helping those who need it the most.

"First it's an honor and privilege to give back to the community I live in and share my blessings with them," said Tomlin. "It's also an opportunity for me to teach that value and instill that value in my kids by doing it with them. I think that is the most rewarding element is watching their understanding and attitude toward it grow over the years. It's been awesome."

Tomlin's wife Kiya, son Mason and daughter Harlyn were on hand, working hard handing out the turkeys and offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum joined in, passing out boxes filled with everything needed for Thanksgiving dinner.

"It's important to do because I want those people to know I relate to their present circumstance," said Tomlin, who took time to shake hands, pose for pictures and just get hugs from thankful recipients. "I come from a similar circumstance. They can live out their dreams. We are not aliens. We are just people that have been blessed and taken advantage of opportunities. In order for them to gain that understanding you have to make yourself accessible. They have to be able to reach out and touch you and communicate with you. I understand that and embrace it."

Center Maurkice Pouncey is someone who loves to smile. So when he saw the smiles of people going through the line at his annual Thanksgiving food distribution at Stage AE, his smile just grew larger.

Pouncey understands how strong the need to provide for others is. He knows there are people who aren't going to have the joy of a full Thanksgiving dinner without getting help from others. So he gathered his family and teammates and did what he does best, he gave from the heart.

"It feels amazing," said Pouncey. "I was in that position before as a kid. For someone to give back to you, it makes you feel like you are wanted in life.

"For us to spend some time with the fans, all of these people right now that are in need, it is awesome."

Pouncey helped provide meals for 200 families from Pittsburgh's North Side and that was something that meant the world to those in receipt of his generosity.

"This event tonight means a lot to me," said Reverend Carol Dennis from the Brown Chapel who had recipients there. "It is helping so many people. There are so many people who have nothing. They are going to have nothing this Thanksgiving. To see the Steelers out giving back to the community is a great and wonderful thing. I am very proud of our Pittsburgh Steelers out helping the community. It's a great and wonderful thing."

And while some players gave back in Pittsburgh, others were able to do so in their hometowns during the team's bye week, including cornerback William Gay and receiver Markus Wheaton.

Gay hosted 22 for 22, delivering Thanksgiving baskets to the 22 families on the South Side of Tallahassee, Florida where he grew up. Gay selected families from the high school, middle school and grade schools in the area, and then went knocking on their door to hand deliver the gift.

"It was fun," said Gay. "I was glad the bye week fell on the week before Thanksgiving so I could go and personally knock on doors and see the family's faces and put joy in some people's lives. I never did it before. It was the best thing I could do. To go knock on doors when people didn't expect it."

Gay said the best part about it was the reaction from the recipients, and it made him know he did the right thing.

"Some people cried," said Gay. "One lady told me it was a blessing from God. She had taken in kids of a friend because a friend was going through some problems. She was feeding them and spending her Thanksgiving money. She didn't think she would have a big Thanksgiving dinner and then I came to the door. That almost made me cry.

"It lets you know it's real, God is real, for it to line up like that was special. It was fun, everyone was laughing. That was the best experience I ever had passing out turkeys. I am going to do it again next year."

Wheaton headed home to Arizona where he distributed turkeys to 300 families at South Mountain Community College. Wheaton has done it in the past, and was thrilled to be able to head home again to help those in need this time of year.

"Just to give back," said Wheaton. "We are blessed to do what we do and be compensated pretty well for it. It's only obvious that we give back to the communities that help shape us. I am going to try and do it every year. I won't always be able to go back for it, but I will do it."

Wheaton said it was special, but a little hard, seeing the people come through the line, in particular people that he knew.

"They shaped me. The people there really helped me," said Wheaton. "I saw a lot of people I knew, people I grew up with, some of the teachers that taught me.

"It's tough to see them in that situation, the situations they are in. Then again it's nice to be able to help them out."

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