By Matt Rochinski
February 20, 2012
From the moment he took over as Bobcats Chairman nearly two years ago, Michael Jordan has stressed the importance of the organization's role in the community and for two years that role has continued to grow and evolve.
"I want people in the community to take pride in what we’re doing here," Jordan said in a one-on-one interview with bobcats.com back on March 18, 2010 after taking majority ownership of the team. "This is a basketball state and we owe it to people to build a strong connection between them and this team."
That commitment has been evident the past two years through Bobcats Sports & Entertainment's (BSE) Cats Care initiative – a program committed the helping the needs of the community in the areas of education, hunger and wellness.
This season, the organization identified hunger as the most significant issue facing this community and launched its full court press on hunger during the holiday season, feeding approximately 4,000 people for Thanksgiving and donating an additional 200 turkeys.
The drive to help wipe out hunger in the Carolinas continued on February 20, 2012 during the Second Annual Cats Care Day of Service as BSE closed its doors and required all players, coaches and staff to partner with FOX Sports’ regional network SportSouth in an entire day of service dedicated to providing meals to underserved children, adults and families throughout the Charlotte community.
"This is a reiteration of what my whole commitment has been to the Carolinas community," said Jordan. "When I took over the team, I wanted to reconnect with the community and a great organization – Second Harvest – came to us and asked us to help play a big role in what they do. FOX came along with us, and here we are once again trying to make a difference in the community. To be able to go out and touch the consumer and the people within the community says a lot about you as a company. I think it gives you a great rapport with the community, making the statement that as they support you, we support them."
The highlighted element of the Second Annual Cats Care Day of Service was the unveiling of a 26-foot, 14,000-pound refrigerated mobile pantry with logos representing the Bobcats, SportSouth and Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, which was funded by a $250,000 cash donation. This vehicle will serve as a transport unit for over 100,000 pounds of pre-packaged food items and canned goods.
"The Bobcats are making a huge donation that is providing us with a new truck and a whole bunch of food to take out in the truck," said Kay Carter, Executive Director of Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. "We are so appreciative of the Bobcats and FOX, and it’s just going to be awesome. We will go out in the truck day after day and deliver food to rural parts of our service territory where poverty is high and where resources are scarce. It is going to be such an impact to the people in our community… The addition of FOX Sports indicates to me that the Bobcats good deeds do not go unnoticed, and we appreciate them for joining our efforts."
"We are so excited to be a part of this as the broadcast partner with the Bobcats on the SportSouth network," said Jeff Genthner, Senior Vice President and General Manager at FOX Sports Carolinas and SportSouth. "We are partners on the court and are partners on television, but it is most important to be a partner in the community. The opportunity to share this investment and contribution to Kay Carter and everyone at Second Harvest Foodbank, we are just very excited about it."
While the unveiling of the mobile pantry and $250,000 donation highlighted the day's events, Jordan, the Bobcats players, coaches and staff also participated in a series of food distribution activities, starting with the Players Pantry at Time Warner Cable Arena®. Jordan, President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins, Head Coach Paul Silas, Assistant Coach Rob Werdann and players Kemba Walker, Corey Maggette, Derrick Brown, Gana Diop and Tyrus Thomas all passed out food at the pantry – a moment that, for Thomas, hit close to home.
"Just giving back and putting smiles on peoples faces is a great thing," Thomas said after handing out food at the Players Pantry. "I have said over and over again and am sure people know about it by now that I benefited from things like this. That's what makes it feel so great. I know the appreciation that those people have. I can honestly say that I have felt that appreciation, so to be able to give that back to someone is always a great feeling."
Up next, the mobile pantry made its first stop, heading out to J.H. Gunn Elementary School where Jordan, Assistant Coach Ralph Lewis and players Bismack Biyombo, Matt Carroll, Gerald Henderson, Eduardo Najera and DJ White dispersed bags of food, took pictures and signed autographs.
"We are just trying to help out the less fortunate by coming out here, handing out some food and spending the day with them," said Henderson. "We do our jobs every day, but coming out here and helping people out that are less fortunate is something we don't get the chance to do every day. Having our boss (Jordan) out here really shows how committed everyone is to doing that. It's just great to be out here."
The day wrapped up with a stop at the Stratford-Richardson YMCA’s Kids Café, where Jordan, Assistant Coach Stephen Silas and players D.J. Augustin, Boris Diaw, Cory Higgins, Byron Mullens and Reggie Williams surprised the kids by showing up to serve food and spend time with them.
"It was a great day for the kids," said Director for Stratford Richardson YMCA and Y Achievers Anthony Walters. "It's great when you can delight them and surprise them with something they weren't expecting. For the players and Mr. Jordan to come through and bless them with their time and then to actually serve them the food says a lot about being a servant to the community, not just being someone who shows up, waves and leaves. To have the Bobcats, Second Harvest Foodbank and the Stratford Richardson YMCA come together to be able to do something like this is a blessing."
In all, the Second Annual Day of Service could not have gone much better, but the Bobcats commitment does not stop there.
"I think people throughout the community in the Carolinas are starting to see that actions do speak louder than words," said Jordan. "It is a commitment from this organization, not just from me. I have mandated that this is an important thing to this organization and to me personally. We are going to try and do anything we can to make a difference in our community."
Added President and Chief Operating Officer Fred Whitfield, "We want to be a part of the core of the community, and the only way we can do that is to continue giving back to the community and continue to challenge ourselves as to how we can do more through Cats Care. The entire organization is involved – our players, our coaches and every member of our staff. It starts at the top with Michael as our leader and our owner. He is committed to it, and we are all committed to it."
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