Harden Helps Family at Homeland
On a recent afternoon, Harden stopped by a local Homeland grocery store, and in conjunction with the Thunder and Homeland, helped a family shop with a gift card for free groceries, and then, after the day was done, presented them with another gift card to use at Homeland on another occasion.
Harden walked around the store, pushing the shopping cart while Bristi Jones and three of her four children all picked out their favorite groceries and essential food items for the coming weeks and months. You wouldn't know it to look at her, but Jones is suffering from a nuerological disorder and Lupus in addition to rheumatoid arthritis. As a result, the single mother hasn't been able to work in the past year but still provides for her sons Shalen (18 years old), Brandon (16), Braden (12) and Kristen (8). The youngest of the three children were all on hand for the much-needed and deserved assistance from Homeland and the Thunder.
"Even though it's cloudy outside, it's a big sun-shiny day for us," Bristi Jones said in the parking lot after all the groceries were loaded into her car.
Jones said that she was blessed with good kids, and this was obvious as the children all interacted with Harden throughout the afternoon. When Harden surprised her and handed her the second $500 gift card, Jones said it took everything for her not to cry. Now, as she went on to describe, she can come back and buy those non-food items that are always the hardest to come by, like shampoo and laundry detergent. While it was a beautiful and relieving day for the family, it was also a wonderful day for Harden, who said he truly enjoyed his time with the family. From laughing and smiling with the whole crew to bagging the fruit to suggesting some of his favorite items like Fruit by the Foot and practically the entire snack food aisle, Harden was engaged and interested in learning about the family and helping them get what they needed.
"It was definitely fun, I had a great time," Harden said. "A lot of laughing, they made me laugh. We did a lot of good shopping and I got to know a little bit about them. They play sports, baseball and golf. It was just a fun day. ...They were just having fun and enjoying the moment while I was there."
Kristen, who seemed to bounce from aisle to aisle and from her cart to her mother to her brothers and to Harden, said that it was the best of day of her life. Bristi Jones said not only does it take a lot for her daughter to say something like that, but once the shopping was over with and Harden said his goodbyes to the family, even her oldest son Brandon gave Harden a rare hug. Kristen had one other theory as to why Harden made such an impact on the family -- he helped sneak in some junk food along with some of the healthier items that Bristi was selecting.
"I made him hide the Honey Buns. I secretly put in the Honey Buns and he hid them," Kristen said smiling, then paused for a moment and added, "He's tall."
While the sweets were a big treat for Kristen and the kids, the impact of the free groceries will be huge on the lives of the Jones family. The Thunder and Homeland team up for four of these shopping sprees each year, and the families are nominated by people who work with food programs throughout the center.
Pam Curtis, the Food Manager at the Stoneridge School, nominated Kristen, who is one of the students who comes through her line every day. Curtis was on hand for the shopping spree and was beside herself with joy as she watched one of her favorite families to come through her school get a day that was all about them and enhancing their lives. Afterwards, Bristi Jones talked about just how much it meant to have Curtis nominate her family for the shopping spree and for Harden to take time out of his day to help them with the day.
"Pam, she's a God-send," Jones said. "James is great. A great personality and he's a sugar-a-holic like we are, so that was nice. He got a hug out of my older son. That's extremely impressive."