Browns players and staff as well as members of Vitamix and Stripes United — composed of coaches' and players' significant others — gathered at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank on Tuesday to package tens of thousands of meals and food items for local shelters, food pantries and food sites throughout Northeast Ohio.
Players from the Browns' rookie class, as well as D'Anthony Bell, Roderick Perry II and veterans Harrison Bryant, Miller Forristall and Joel Bitonio teamed up to help volunteers prep for the holiday season at the food bank, where thousands of meals will be donated to people in need for Thanksgiving and the weeks leading up to Christmas.
"It's great to be able to use the platform we have to spread positivity and help anybody out in any way we can," kicker Cade York said. "It means a lot being able to put a smile on someone's face during this time of year. The holidays can either be great times, or they can be bad times for some people, and we're trying to make it great for as many people as possible."
The Browns have partnered with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank to package and distribute food before Thanksgiving since 2006. The gathering is one of many jointly-hosted events by the Browns and Greater Cleveland Food Bank, a First and Ten community partner, as they team up to help fight hunger and ensure families have access to nutritious meals throughout the year, particularly during high times of need like the winter holidays. Vitamix was the presenting partner of the event.
Over 24,000 meals were packaged for kids and 500 turkeys were compiled for deliveries and donations. The Browns, Vitamix and Stripes United had over 100 volunteers assist in the efforts, which were able to be expanded this year as the GCFB transitioned into a new and larger facility that allows for more storage space and greater abilities to efficiently reach more people.
"We're thrilled to have the Cleveland Browns, their staff and players out every year," said Karen Ponza, Director of Communications and Special Events for the Food Bank. "We're especially excited this year because we're in our new facility this year, and it's an opportunity to show it off.
"We needed this space to be able to distribute more and more food. The need is still there — and it's higher than ever. Because of that need and the increase that we've continued to see over the last several years, we really needed this space and new building to have more volunteers, store the products and never have to turn away donations."
As part of the day's festivities, the Browns will make a $10,000 donation to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank to provide turkeys to hundreds of families in the region during the holiday. Vitamix, the presenting partner of this year's Browns Give Back Greater Cleveland Food Bank visit, will also present a $2,500 check to the organization, which will help provide 7,500 meals to members of the community.
"The thing about the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and why we love coming here every Thanksgiving is because right now, everyone is thinking about hunger relief and serving meals to people who need it," said Jenner Tekancic, Browns Vice President of Community Relations. "The food bank is here 365 days a year serving agencies throughout six counties, and they're never going to say no. They're always going to help out whenever they can, so whatever we can do to create awareness for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, we want to make sure we're helping magnify that message."