LOS ANGELES – Salvation Army Major Kyle Smith was beaming midway through the Clippers’ “Feed the Community” event.
“It’s just awesome,” Smith said Saturday morning. “It’s a real family feeling. The Clippers are saying, ‘We don’t just play sports, we’re a family.’”
Smith has done relief work all over the globe and has been with the Salvation Army for more than two decades and he seemed wildly impressed by the work of the Los Angeles Clippers Foundation along with partners Burger King, MillerCoors and Feed The Children. The event brings food and supplies to upwards of 800 families in need each year.
“It’s always good to come out here and give back as much as we possibly can,” Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said, “because we know we’re very fortunate and blessed to have the things that we have. Just to give back is always a great feeling.”
Families started lining up around the block outside of the Salvation Army Seimon Family and Youth Community Center, located about four miles south of downtown Los Angeles, at about 6 a.m. After checking in, each family made their way to the back of the center where they were greeted by Jordan, Reggie Bullock and Ryan Hollins as well as dozens of Clippers season-ticket holders who volunteered. The players and season-ticket holders helped the families fill up carts or stack boxes of needed supplies on dollies.
“We have families from the community coming by getting food, supplies, things that they would need on a daily basis and we get to interact with them, so it’s really cool,” said Kelly Rock Gomes, who is Burger King’s Director of Marketing on the west coast.
The Seimon Center hosts a number of events annually with the Clippers. The partnership has long attempted to provide aide in one of the most troubled regions in Southern California.
Prior to the start of Saturday’s event, a volunteer, while speaking to a group of co-workers said, “We’re all Los Angeles, right?” That idea and the idea of family that Smith referred to strikes a chord with Hollins, who grew up in South Pasadena and played college basketball locally at UCLA.
“I love coming here,” the always energetic Hollins said. “When I say I’m giving back to my people, these are my people. This is where I grew up, and came down here and played ball. This is home. I’m very appreciative of giving back to my people, my family, my community.”
It’s that spirit of community that the Clippers Foundation has spent the last two decades working towards. Founded in 1994, the foundation exists to foster and support community outreach programs and activities with positive educational, civic, environmental and humanitarian values that benefit and enhance the quality of life primarily for children in greater Los Angeles.
“Feed the Community” is just one of those areas of support, but a big one for Jordan.
“It means a lot to me personally because I was raised in a single-parent home and things were always a little hard,” Jordan said. “It feels better than winning a game just to see people’s faces when they see a professional athlete, regardless of what team they play for, doing something like this. They know that we don’t have to be here and we know that we’re giving back as much as possible. It’s just a great feeling.”
And Smith, who took in the event for the first time, would likely agree wholeheartedly.
Asked what it means to have players like Jordan, Bullock and Hollins up early working in the community, he said, “That means a lot. You think about this: you watch somebody on TV and think, ‘Wow, I wish I could meet them some day.’ And then you’re in need of some help and lo and behold your stars, your heroes are right there helping you. What else more could you ask for? I’m mean, that’s the best.”