Collison, Ibaka Hand Out Thanksgiving Dinners at Urban Mission
Mary Patterson is a vibrant woman, who on Saturday was bubbling with even more excitement than usual.
A disability has her in a difficult personal and financial situation, so she stood in line at the Urban Mission to pick up a free Thanksgiving dinner that she can prepare for the holiday this upcoming Thursday. When she walked in the door, Thunder forwards Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka were there to greet her, and she just about busted at the seams.
The Thunder and Homeland teamed up to provide 400 such Thanksgiving dinners, which included a turkey, mashed potatoes, canned goods, pies and brownies on Saturday at the mission on the west side of Oklahoma City.
Collison and Serge Ibaka along with Thunder staffers from throughout the organization, stopped by to hand out the meals and greet each family with holiday cheer. For Patterson and hundreds of others at the Urban Mission, Saturday’s Thunder surprise was a major morale boost during the time of year when it is needed most.
“Sometimes you feel like you’re kind of lost in the shuffle when you’re having a hard time,” Patterson explained. “It’s a wonderful thing and it means the world to me personally. I know there are a lot of people out there still that are very excited that (the Thunder) showed up for us.”
“When you’re down on your luck, you feel like sometimes you’re forgotten or that people don’t care or they don’t see,” Patterson continued. “So to have this surprise today is incredible. It gives you hope and inspires you to know that people care.”
The Urban Mission, which works in unison with the Regional Food Bank, serves as a grocery-store style facility where families can come in and select the items that they need to sustain themselves. The mission’s director, Peggy Garrett, said that just last week her staffers served 75 families in just a three-hour period, and that lines are getting longer and longer, particularly now that winter has swept into Oklahoma City.
For Garrett, her staff and the countless families who need a positive boost in their lives, today’s event with Collison, Ibaka and the Thunder was a rewarding and poignant treat.
“It’s cold (outside), but it’s warm in here,” Garrett said. “This is just an amazing program that the Thunder and Homeland put together for families that are struggling with hunger.”
“These are families that don’t normally get to go to games,” Garrett continued. “So it’s really special for them to come out and meet the players and see that they really care about other folks too.”
It wasn’t just those who received the Thanksgiving dinners who felt joy on Saturday. Collison, who has been with the Thunder since before the organization even arrived in Oklahoma City, and Ibaka, a core member of the team, both understand the connection the club has with the city and the way the people in town support them on a daily basis.
The ability to give back to those who are in trying circumstances, particularly around the holidays, was a wonderful opportunity for both players to show their appreciation for local families in need.
“Our organization is doing a great job of getting out into the community and they’re giving us an opportunity to get involved,” Collison said. “It’s a great thing for us to be able to come out and help out and make some people happy.”
“I always thank God to be in this position where I can help people who really need it,” Ibaka said. “It feels great.”
The connection between the Thunder and Oklahoma City can be seen not just in Chesapeake Energy Arena each night, but on every street corner and every neighborhood throughout the area. An event like Saturday’s that connects deeply with families is an example of what makes being a part of the Thunder organization and a citizen of Oklahoma City so unique.
Patterson, who has felt the personality of her city before and after the Thunder’s arrival, took a moment to reflect about her experience on Saturday, and how the organization has made such a deep impact in Oklahoma City in just five short years.
“Who would have thought, ten years ago, that we would we be so proud of a basketball team in Oklahoma City?” Patterson asked before she left the Mission. “For us to have a pro team that is so cool, we can hold our heads up high.”