New Browns CEO Joe Banner has quickly embraced the Cleveland community and expressed his commitment to improving the lives of citizens by joining with front-office staff members and players at the Cleveland Foodbank on Tuesday morning.
Banner and the Browns packed bags for the Foodbank’s Backpacks for Kids program, prepared meals in the community kitchen and distributed turkeys on the loading docks.
“It’s important to the organization,” Banner said. “I think it’s a phenomenal cause. As I’m learning about everything we’re doing, I think it’s important for me to see this, show my support and be out here with everybody else. I’m amazed, as I go around and learn how many things the Browns are doing.
“It’s a fundamental commitment of the new ownership to be engaged in this community, do the right thing and try to help out. We have a unique opportunity at the Browns to be able to make a difference and we’re going to utilize that.”
Nineteen current Browns players lent their time and efforts in helping the Cleveland Foodbank on Tuesday. Quarterbacks
“Our entire organization looks forward to coming out to the Foodbank each year,” said Renee Harvey, vice president of community outreach for the Browns. “This gives the staff, as well as our players, a first-hand look at the work the Foodbank does on a daily basis to cover the needs in a six-county region. For the players to come out and give their time, it’s extremely important to the organization, but it’s also important that they’re donating. They understand the need and they appreciate their position and the fact that they’re grateful for where they are. For them to contribute financially shows that they’re very vested in our local community, which is exactly what we like to see.”
The Browns players lent enough financial support to purchase more than 1,000 turkeys for local families to celebrate Thanksgiving. On Sunday, the team will host its annual Food Drive game day collection at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Last year, the Browns Food Drive collected enough food for 29,000 meals.
For Weeden and his wife Melanie, participating in this week’s community events at the Lonnie Burten Recreation Center and Cleveland Foodbank are only the beginning to their first holiday season in Cleveland.
“Doing stuff like this is what this season’s all about, giving back,” Weeden said. “My family’s not here, so my wife and I adopted a family to try and help out as much as we possibly can. Coming out here and just trying to help out and maybe change one family or two families’ Thanksgivings, that means a lot to us and this community. We’re really looking forward to it and it’s something we’re very passionate about and we take a lot of pride in.”
In the month of November alone, the Cleveland Foodbank distributes three million pounds of food, which is enough for roughly 2.7 million meals. They have more than 600 distribution centers and mobile pantries that help serve the Cleveland community. With their 104 employees, 11,000 volunteers and fleet of 14 trucks, the Foodbank directly delivers 65 percent of its food donations.
“We just love our partnership with the Browns,” said Kristin Warzocha, vice president of external affairs for the Foodbank. “From this volunteering to the Browns’ Food Drive, the Taste of the Browns event, the Browns really couldn’t do anything more to fight hunger in Northeast Ohio. We’re just so grateful and this event is a nice opportunity to highlight our partnership.
“It’s so clear that there’s nobody in our community, including the Cleveland Browns, that wants anybody to go hungry at any time of year, but particularly, at the holidays. We really appreciate the support and hope the rest of the community will get engaged as well.”
The Cleveland Foodbank provides nutritious food to local nonprofit organizations which serve hungry individuals across northeast Ohio, with 33 percent of them being children. This year, the Foodbank distributed enough food for 33 million meals to 620 local food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other agencies such as child-care centers and homes for the elderly in six counties including Cuyahoga, Ashland, Richland, Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula. For more information, visit www.clevelandfoodbank.org.