CLEVELAND --** Last week, Gary Barnidge took it upon himself to visit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank in preparation for the 18th-annual Taste of the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. [
"I just wanted to go see what it was all about. I had heard about it and I wanted to see what it was all about. It's amazing to see how many people's lives it touches," the Pro Bowl tight end said.
"It was crazy, just to see such a huge building with so many people that are coming to volunteer to work there and give out so much food, it's crazy how it all works and they explained the whole process to me and how it helps so many people every day. It's amazing, that's why this is such a great thing."
Barnidge — who on Monday night served as an honorary co-chair along with former Browns linebacker Dick Ambrose and chef Rocco Whalen from Fahrenheit — helped the event raise a record of more than $225,000 that will go toward the Food Bank's hunger relief efforts.
"I think it's a great event for the city of Cleveland, it raises a lot of money for the Cleveland Food Bank and raises awareness of the needs of the Cleveland Food Bank and the needs of the people that go hungry and the city of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio," said left tackle Joe Thomas, who was among a contingent of Browns players and alums in attendance.
Taste of the Browns, which serves as its most major fundraiser, featured food from more than 25 of Cleveland's top restaurants — including Michael Symon's B Spot Burgers, Lola Bistro, Lolita, Mabel's BBQ, Butcher and Brewer, Deagan's Kitchen and Bar and Humble Wine Bar, Pickwick & Frolic, Momocho and El Carnicero — and an auction of exclusive packages for those gathered. The Food Bank is the region's largest hunger relief organization and feeds thousands of Ohioans.
The Cleveland Browns and well-known chefs in Northeast Ohio team up to raise money for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. #give10
Taste of the Browns raised $224,000 last year and helped the Food Bank offer more than 896,000 meals to agencies in six counties.
"Every dollar gives you four meals, every dollar that's donated, which is awesome," Barnidge said.
"And I just think having this huge event, all these local restaurants donating the food and all these people coming out and helping families that they don't even know, that's just the huge part of it and it's an amazing thing to do."
The Browns are dedicated to #give10 through the team's First and Ten initiative. Launched in June 2014, the Cleveland Browns First and Ten campaign is the team's community program, established to inspire fans to volunteer in and help their communities throughout the world by volunteering for 10 hours each year.
Since its inception, Browns fans have committed to volunteering more than 1 million hours to impact their communities by pledging to #give10. Through First and Ten, the Browns are the only NFL club to promote a long-term volunteering program that unifies the team and its entire fan base, with the goal of impacting every individual's city across the globe, as well as the franchise's local community.
All Browns fans are encouraged to join the volunteering effort by signing the First and Ten pledge on the team's website and by sharing their stories with #give10.
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank is the largest hunger relief organization in Northeast Ohio, providing 47.8 million meals in 2015 to hungry people in Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Ashland and Richland counties.
You can donate at GreaterClevelandFoodBank.org.