Giving Hope

Driving down Central Avenue in south Los Angeles, the streets are lined with barred windows and graffiti labeled storefronts. But nestled between the rundown buildings is the Salvation Army Seimon Family Youth and Community Center – a safe haven for a community desperately in need of support.

On Saturday, people of all different ages and ethnicities could be found in a line wrapping around the Salvation Army as they took part in the Feed the Community event hosted by the Los Angeles Clippers Foundation, Feed The Children, and the Salvation Army Seimon Family Youth & Community Center.

The Los Angeles Clippers Foundation supports community outreach programs that embody positive educational, civic, environmental and humanitarian values and enhance the quality of life for families and children within the Los Angeles community. Feed The Children, which began as a nonprofit relief organization in 1979, is now one of the nation’s largest, most efficient international humanitarian charities – delivering food, medicine, clothing and other basic goods to individuals, children and families in need. Today's distribution is the latest stop on Feed the Children's American Feeding Americans Caravan, which has helped more than 155,000 families that have been affected by the economic downturn.

“Partnering with Feed The Children and the Salvation Army and putting a smile on these peoples’ faces and giving them food and other things means a lot to them and it means a lot to us,” said Clippers forward Ryan Gomes. “We’re so blessed and we want to show these people that we care.”

View more photos from the event here.

The Los Angeles Clippers Foundation and Feed The Children partnered to provide food for 800 families on Saturday as part of the NBA Cares Week of Service. The families were selected based on need by the Salvation Army and they began lining up as early as 5:00 a.m. to receive their donation. Clippers players Baron Davis, Rasual Butler, Blake Griffin and Gomes, along with Clippers staff and season ticket holders, helped make the event a success by volunteering their time to hand out boxes, help children pick out books and help put a smile on people’s faces.

There's a saying that goes, ‘to whom much is given, much is required,’ and the Clippers players embodied that sentiment as they gave their time and shared a piece of themselves with individuals and families who were hungry for help.

“The relationship that we have developed with the Clippers is almost second to none,” said Mortimer Jones, the director of the Salvation Army. “There is a difference between just doing something and doing it with your heart and I think they are so passionate.”

The Salvation Army Seimon Family Youth and Community Center was founded in 2003 to assist, support, inspire and serve one of the most troubled urban regions in Southern California, and they were clearly fulfilling their mission on Saturday.

View more photos from the event here.

“We have done many events with the Clippers and in the past I have just been blown away by these guys that are professional basketball players and earn a significant amount of money, but they come and you can see that their heart is in it and they’re connecting with the families,” Jones said. “They are not just doing it because they have to be here, they are doing it because they want to do it.”

The Clippers Feed The Community event may have been a part of the NBA Cares Week of Service, but the attitude and energy that the players showed was not forced – it was from the heart. They had an obligation to show up for the event, but Gomes was not obligated to push cart after cart of boxes out to each family’s car and no one was forcing Davis to smile that big, toothy smile and talk with every individual that approached him.

When Davis returns to south Los Angeles, he is home. And, according to Jones, he has never lost sight of that despite the great deal of success and fame he has earned throughout his career.

“He has never forgotten where he’s from," Jones said. "He’s never forgotten his roots.”

Davis grew up not far from the Salvation Army location and attended South Park Elementary School only a few blocks away, and he realizes the importance of giving back to the community that helped shape him as a person.

“I think it is always important to connect with people that are less fortunate,” Davis said. “It’s not an obligation, but it’s something in your heart of hearts you should want to do.”

The looks of appreciation on each individual’s face as they left with boxes full of the basic necessities that many people take for granted said it all. The impact of the Feed The Community event could be seen as each child walked away with a book in their hands.

View more photos from the event here.

“I think it is just so beautiful to have an opportunity to get out and actually see people that really need assistance and be able to help give back,” said Carol Wilson, a Clippers season ticket holder who was volunteering for the third consecutive year.

For a day, the Clippers weren’t concerned with their stats or an upcoming game – they were just people, helping out a community in need. Taking a few hours out of their practice schedule as they prepare for their upcoming season may not seem like a lot, but to the people of south Los Angeles it was a bright spot during difficult times.

“As players we have been blessed to be in the position that we are in, so to be able to give back is important,” said rookie forward Blake Griffin. “You don’t know these families’ situations and for some of them this could be huge. So to be able to do something like this is great.”

With all of the boxes of food gone and no more work to be done, there was Davis pausing and taking a moment to offer advice and encouragement to a group of young, eager children who were eating up his every word. With his obligation fulfilled, Davis could have rushed off to something else, but instead he made his presence felt.

View more photos from the event here.

“For us to see the smile on their face and know that for a day their lives can be impacted by us coming out and taking a little bit of our time is huge,” Davis said.

According to JRoss Hammock, a south Los Angeles community member and Feed The Community recipient, the individuals and families in attendance on Saturday were very much in need. He has been homeless at several points in his life and is unable to work much of the time due to disabilities, so the donations he received will ensure that he does not have to do without this holiday season.

“Everything is always nice when you really need it,” Hammock said. “When you earn a very low income, every little bit helps.”

Hammock, who was taking the bus home with all of his boxes of goods, expressed how much of an impact the Clippers presence in the community has on the morale of the people.

“It makes people see that there’s hope and hope is a major key – if you don’t got hope, you don’t have anything.”

View more photos from the event here.

On Saturday, the Clippers players, staff and volunteers were able to give back to a community that has given so much to them. Aside from what takes place on the basketball court, the Clippers are scoring points where it really counts – in the lives of families that can truly use the help.

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