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Thanksgiving with the Food Bank

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All hands on deck as Browns give back to community at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank

CLEVELAND — Baker Mayfield hands off to Nick Chubb, who hands off to Antonio Callaway, who hands off to Tanner Vallejo, who hands off to two more Browns rookies in a white cargo van.

This isn't some convoluted trick play. This batch of Browns rookies are helping ensure families across Northeast Ohio have all the food they need for Thanksgiving.

The rookies weren't the only ones teaming with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank on Tuesday. Joel Bitonio, Joe Schobert, Trevon Coley and several other veterans were there, too, along with the rest of the 2018 rookie class, Browns alumni, Browns Women Organization, Greater Cleveland Food Bank and Giant Eagle volunteers. Giant Eagle, the official grocery store of the Browns, partnered with the team for the holiday visit and supported the group's efforts throughout the day.

The players worked as an assembly line loading turkeys, hams and packages of other food into vans that would transport them to food shelters and soup kitchens across Northeast Ohio. The players also worked in a warehouse filling bags and boxes of food that would later be delivered to families in need.

"Not everybody is as fortunate as us," Schobert said. "We hang out with all of our other NFL athletes and NFL families. When you get into an environment like this, you can see how the people (at the Food Bank) work, how they keep the community strong. It grows you closer to the city of Cleveland."

Browns players, staff, alumni and volunteers from Giant Eagle and the Browns Women Organization helped at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank by packaging meals and food items for local shelters, food pantries and food sites throughout Northeast Ohio ahead of Thanksgiving.

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank is the largest organization of its kind in Northeast Ohio. It provided 57 million meals last year to hungry people across six different counties and distributed hundreds of thousands of pounds of food to hundreds of different non-profit organizations every day. But President and CEO Kristin Warzocha's job is never more important than it is around the holidays.

"As a mother, I can't imagine not being able to celebrate a holiday around the table with family traditions and good food," Warzocha said Tuesday. "It's so important that we make sure that everyone in our community be able to (celebrate properly) because everyone deserves to do this."

Tuesday's event is one of many that teams the Browns and the Food Bank. They also raise money and organize food drives for families that need the help. September's "Taste of the Browns" at FirstEnergy Stadium raised more than $260,000 for the Food Bank.

Every player can relate to the fans' love of the franchise and wants to help those in need, but as a Cleveland native, Denzel Ward connects to the city on a deeper level. Volunteering on Tuesday was a special experience for the rookie defensive back.

"It means a lot," Ward said. "It's more than just football. It's about giving back and helping families out and helping the community out in every way we can."