Ben and Ashley Roethlisberger and Vance and Kendi McDonald know that families are hurting right now. They know there is a need for the basic necessities, things as simplistic as bread and milk, with so many still impacted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That need, that lack of resources for so many, is why the Roethlisbergers and McDonalds once again teamed with Convoy of Hope to help those in Western Pennsylvania, in particular those in the New Castle community where Ashley Roethlisberger grew up.
"We want to help the community, this is my wife's community, where she grew up in New Castle," said Ben Roethlisberger. "We did one a few weeks ago at Heinz Field, so to be here in New Castle to help the community, it's a way we can show our kids and the next generation it's about love and helping others. It shouldn't be about us. The more we can do, the happier we are."
The Roethlisbergers, McDonalds and Convoy of Hope worked with Jubilee Ministries International, Nourishing Others Well-Being Project and the Christian Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania to host a drive-thru food giveaway for up to 1,500 families.
"We are passing out a lot of food," said Ben Roethlisberger. "We are boxing everything up. I saw the crazy amounts of personal hygiene stuff, food, baby food. We are excited to see the joy on people's faces."
There were cars lined up for more than a mile before the distribution even began, further highlighting how strong the need is.
"It's not about us, it's about others, lifting up and being compassionate," said McDonald. "With all of the craziness of COVID, there are a lot of people that need help. Being able to do this, bringing Convoy here and getting involved with the local churches and the City of Pittsburgh and surrounding cities has been amazing. It's cool to have another truck here for Trucks of Hope. We want to have more in the future."
There were over 8,000 boxes and bags of food available through the Roethlisbergers and McDonalds working with Farmers to Families Program and Convoy of Hope. Each family will receive fresh milk, quality dairy products, pre-made frozen meals for children under the age of 18 years of age, groceries, dry goods and boxes of fresh produce.
"They have such a need here," said Ashley Roethlisberger. "Convoy of Hope, and all of the partners who are working together, can go to these smaller communities and provide more meals. There has always been a need to reach out and help. There have always been people who are struggling and in need of food and especially during these times, people who have normally been okay have found themselves in difficult situations. It was a blessing that the people in Pittsburgh have focused on what the needs in the city are and how we can meet them. We're thankful for Convoy of Hope because that is their mission, to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. We're just happy to be able to partner with them to feed families in need, the people who wouldn't normally go to food banks or have those same connections can still go to these distributions and be fed through alternative ways. We are just happy to be able to help do that."
This is the second of three distributions the Steelers are working with Convoy of Hope on this summer. The first was at Heinz Field and another will be held in Westmoreland County in August, in the community where they live.
"It's a huge encouragement. With the work we do to end hunger and relieve poverty and suffering throughout the world, any time you can get a friend like Ben and Ashley and Vance and Kendi to get on board and put a spotlight on the problem, it helps encourage other people to do something in their communities," said Kirk Noonan, chief innovation officer for Convoy of Hope. "It might not be a Convoy of Hope event and something of that scale, but it might encourage someone to go buy groceries for a family that is suffering. It's a huge deal from a partnership standpoint and the rippling effect it has."
The drive-thru distributions are new to Convoy of Hope because of the pandemic, but they are ones they are adapting to thanks to the involvement of teams and players.
"Our normal events where we have people walking around, spending time together, talking, encouraging them, those are awesome," said Noonan. "That is what we built Convoy on. We are trying to be conscientious of local jurisdictions and the social distancing. We are trying to make sure everyone is doing what they should be doing to try and prevent the spread of COVID, but at the same time at the end of the day just the opportunity to give people a sense of hope and that their community is rallying around them. Through some groceries and supplies it lets them know their community cares about them and the net effect is still the same.
"With the Steelers, Ben and Ashley, Vance and Kendi, it's impressive in the Pittsburgh area to see them doing a truck a month. It's going to help a lot of people. Any time you get a great organization like the Steelers involved we want the local partner to lead the way. The Steelers have done an amazing job. When you work with a top-flight organization like the Steelers, people are drawn to that. When they come out looking for help there is some comfort in the brand, the hometown team. Knowing the team is helping them out, it does something within them in the community aspect to let them know they are cared for."