By Teresa Varley
As they entered the recreation center in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, most thought they were there to get a turkey and the trimmings from community volunteers.
They had no idea when they walked inside the door that waiting for them would be Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley and some of his teammates.
"For people in the community who are economically disadvantage to know that there are people in the community that care about them is important," said Cindy Moore, the chief regional outreach officer for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. "A lot of times people feel isolated in their own situations. To have a Steelers player come and put forth their time and resources means a lot to people."
Woodley provided turkeys for 200 Hazelwood residents, ranging from families, to single parents to senior citizens.
"It speaks volumes for our community and them as individuals," said Moore. "One of the big issues in trying to end hunger is public education. People don't necessarily respond because they don't know this issue exists. When we can have a public figure like LaMarr come and put forth his efforts and resources to help our work, it brings a heightened awareness to the issue of hunger and the needs of our community. He can do in one night what it might take millions of press releases to accomplish."
Woodley handed out the turkeys, along with teammates Dennis Dixon, Deshea Townsend and Lawrence Timmons, bringing smiles to those on the receiving end and getting plenty of love back as people went through the line.
"People are struggling at this time," said Woodley. "You have some who struggle their whole lives. I figured I would do a turkey drive to at least take something off their mind for Thanksgiving. You always have to give back to the people who are unfortunate."
"It's wonderful. I love helping people out. It's a great opportunity to do it. I love to see other people happy when they have things in their lives."
Woodley's turkey distribution is a part of an outreach he is doing for Thanksgiving. It was the first of two turkey distributions he was doing in Pittsburgh along with one in his hometown of Saginaw, Michigan.
"At home is where you are from," said Woodley. "That is how you got where you are today. You can move far away, but you never change where you are from. There are communities here that are similar to mine at home. And this is also my home now. If I can make a difference here and there, then why not do it."
The food bank serves 11 counties in the Western Pennsylvania area and their numbers increase monthly, with around 1,500 to 2,000 new households added a month.
"People are struggling and to get the gift of Thanksgiving from somebody who they get excited about and took the time to come and make their holiday better," said Anne Hawkins, chief development officer for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. "It means a lot to people right now."
For a full photo gallery by Teresa Varley, go to LaMarr Woodley Turkey Giveaway and click on Off The Field.