CLEVELAND — Since coming to Cleveland in 2007, Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas has used his platform to shine a light on those in need.
He did so again Monday night at the 19th annual Taste of the Browns, which serves as the most significant fundraiser for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
“The way that they stretch a dollar into the number of meals that they do is really, truly impressive,” he said, “and I think it’s such a great organization that gives directly back into our community and helps people directly put food on their table that they might not otherwise have.”
Thomas — who served as an honorary co-chair along with former Browns standout Josh Cribbs and chef Rocco Whalen from Fahrenheit — helped the event raise a record of more than $240,000 that will go toward the Food Bank’s hunger relief efforts. Thomas and his wife, Annie, also contributed $10,000 toward the cause.
Thomas was joined by teammates Joel Bitonio, Kevin Zeitler, JC Tretter, Randall Telfer, Seth DeValve, Danny Shelton, Nate Orchard, Britton Colquitt, Spencer Drango and Chris Barker in an effort to help the Food Bank raise as much money possible. Several Browns alums, including Cribbs, Paul Warfield and Dick Ambrose, also joined the event.
For each dollar raised at the Taste of the Browns, the Food Bank can provide four nutritious meals for needy families across Northeast Ohio.
“It’s a really cool event, it’s really easy for us players to come out here but it’s a really great way to raise money and just kind of help people who can't help themselves all the time,” Bitonio said. “It’s an easy way to give back to the community.”
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank, the largest hunger relief organization in Northeast Ohio, is a partner of the Browns' First and Ten movement, which aims to give back to the community in a variety of functions. The Food Bank provided 50 million meals in 2016 to hungry people in Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Ashland and Richland counties. According to the Food Bank, one in six people in the region is food insecure, meaning they may not know where their next meal will come from.
“It’s such a great cause and anything that’s involving food I'm definitely going to be a part of it,” Telfer said with a smile. “It’s a great cause, it’s great to all these guys come out, all these restaurants come out and raise as much money as we can. This is something that needs our attention.”