Nuggets' Gary Harris donates meals and baby supplies to families at Clayton Early Learning Center

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

It can be difficult to be a new parent under normal circumstances. Those challenges are heightened tenfold during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for families in need. That’s why Gary Harris has teamed up with Clayton Early Learning to assist families under Clayton Cares.

Harris, the longest-tenured Nugget and a new father, has donated 460 food boxes (115 will be distributed each week) and 33,000 diapers to Clayton Cares’ families.

“With everything going on, we’re all going through tough times right now. Just having an opportunity to help the school and with the kids [is great],” Harris told Nuggets.com. “I have a son. So, I know how it can be with diapers, meals and everything. So, to just be able to provide a light for a group of people and help out the community, I just thought it was a perfect opportunity.”

Prior to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, Clayton Early Learning was often a safe haven for the children in its program. Almost all of Clayton’s children come from families who live at or below the federal poverty level. The neighborhood of Clayton is located in what is considered to be a food desert, with the nearest fresh food supermarket located outside a five-mile radius. With many families in the neighborhood unable to secure means of reliable transportation, access to healthy food and baby supplies can difficult.

Clayton Early Learning estimates that its children receive 80 percent of their calorie intake from the program. Before the pandemic, the school was serving 1,000 meals a day. Due to the school being closed as a result of COVID-19, it has directly impacted the families whose children are enrolled in the school. That is where Harris’ contributions have a significant impact.

“Knowing that Gary is a new father himself puts his generosity in an even brighter light. Clearly, he understands the importance of giving all children a great start, and he took action to make a real difference in their lives. He’s a hero on and off the court,” Sarah Berkman, vice president of development for Clayton Early Learning said in an email.

With the school currently closed, the program’s volunteers are delivering meals directly to those families. Harris’ donation helps with the supplies needed to keep the program going.

Although Harris wasn’t able to visit the school due to social distancing, he has closely followed the Clayton Cares program and hopes to check the school in person in the future. For the 25-year-old guard, it is the second major community initiative he’s been involved with in the past several months. Late last year, he invited over a dozen families with Autistic Children to attend a movie for Christmas and gave gifts to each child.

“Denver has been my home for the past six years, I’ve grown up [here],” Harris explained about being active in the community. “I went from being a 19-year-old kid to being 25-years-old, almost 26. It’s helped me grow as a person. This city has done nothing but embrace me and it feels like home. So just being able to give back to places and cities you care about is big to me.”

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