A Palace Feast

Pistons treat 700 to Thanksgiving meal and more

Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Lawrence Frank will get to spend Thanksgiving with his family for the first time in 13 years this holiday season. He spent Thursday night with 700 members of his newly adopted Pistons family, serving up a Thanksgiving feast for the palate and the senses.

The Pistons hosted 400 adults and 300 children sent to them by Oakland County community organizations serving the increasing number of families and individuals in need of a helping hand and a hot meal. With Frank and his assistant coaches, plus another 160 or so Palace employees and season ticketholders volunteering as catering staff, the guests ate at linen-covered tables adorned with fresh flowers while a parade of gospel musicians performed on stage.

“I want to thank all of you for coming to our home,” Frank told them. “We are here to serve you.”

“Hosting more events that are meaningful to people is critical, just absolutely critical,” said Pistons president Dennis Mannion, who’s worked for four other professional sports organizations across all major team sports in his 30 years in the business but had never seen an event quite like this one. “In all our events, we want to get into the community more aggressively. This is just unbelievably unique, holding it in the center of The Palace universe.”

Ham and turkey, plus all the trimmings, topped with pumpkin and pecan pies, kept the adult guests of the Pistons and Forgotten Harvest content throughout their evening, but the kids quickly gravitated to the north end of the arena floor. That’s where the Pistons Zone was set up, featuring a bungee run, an inflatable basketball hoop and a sport court where members of the Palace Patrol were on hand that kept them hopping – and, no doubt, accelerated the digestion process.

Ex-Pistons Rick Mahorn, John Long and Greg Kelser also were among those ladling out food for families struggling to find a job or a safe place to live in a state where the effects of the recession hit first and stubbornly linger. They left The Palace on a night that left little doubt of winter’s approach with warm smiles, full bellies and a new group of friends.

“I don’t think it should take something like this for you to appreciate what you have,” Frank said. “Every day, we count our blessings and understand how fortunate we are. I just think, every day, we’re lucky.”

Dennis Brozes, who became a Pistons season ticketholder in the early days of Joe Dumars’ run as team president and got to watch the 2004 championship team come together, responded with an enthusiastic yes when he was asked if he’d like to volunteer for the event.

“It sounded like a really great event and a very good thing that the organization is giving back to the community,” said Brozes, a health-care finance worker for the Karmanos Cancer Institute. “That’s very valuable for any business and within this environment, I think it’s essential. I think it was something essential to the former owner, the late Mr. Davidson, and I’m glad the traditions which were started by the Davidson family are being continued by Tom Gores. I’m happy that he’s from the area and I thought it was for the best when he bought the team.”

Each Pistons guests left The Palace with a bag containing a Pistons hat and gloves plus personal hygiene items.

“A big part of our approach is service leadership,” Frank said. “In order to lead, you have to serve first. This is a great example. It’s my staff and our whole organization giving their time to serve others and that’s a big part of who we are and what we do in this organization. That was one of the principal reasons Tom bought the team, was to be impactful and help the community at large.”