Pistons employees’ teamwork helps Forgotten Harvest reap 18,000 pounds of food

Pistons employees produced 18,000 pounds of food during their day of volunteer work at the Forgotten Harvest farm in Fenton
Brian Sevald (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

The same teamwork Dwane Casey hopes to foster when the Pistons open training camp has enabled the organization the NBA’s reigning Coach of the Year calls home to put food on the tables of hundreds of Detroit families.

Three busloads of Pistons employees made the trek to Forgotten Harvest’s Fenton farm on Tuesday and produced 18,000 pounds of food – kale and collard greens – that will be distributed to needy families over the coming months.

“We’re doing a lot of quality things,” Pistons community ambassador Earl Cureton said after participating in the Forgotten Harvest event. “We had a golf outing for Detroit Public Schools yesterday, there are mentoring programs we’ve got going on, City Year is another big event. All these things – I went to a PSL school, Detroit Finney, junior high, college all in Detroit – really affect people’s lives. We’re on a roll with that right now and looking to do more and more stuff.”

Pistons employees were rewarded with a picture-perfect Michigan summer day – temperatures in the mid 70s with low humidity – for the organization-wide effort that continues a longstanding relationship with Forgotten Harvest.

The Pistons have worked with the organization for several years to provide Thanksgiving dinners. Money provided by Pistons owner Tom Gores, vice chairman Arn Tellem and the Detroit Pistons Foundation covered the cost and maintenance of a “Mobile Pantry” delivery truck as part of a fleet of such vehicles that rescues food from throughout southeastern Michigan.

It’s an extension of Gores’ commitment to make the Pistons about more than basketball as he’s prioritized since becoming owner in 2011.

“It’s one thing to say it, but he sticks behind it,” Cureton said. “He talks about being impactful. I’ve been involved in a lot of things throughout Michigan, not only in Detroit. We’ve done a lot of things in Flint, where he’s from. He puts an emphasis on it every time he’s here and I think that’s contagious.”

Scott Schiff, senior director for business development, also cited the ripple effects on an organization when ownership prioritizes the importance of community outreach.

“That’s kind of the mindset,” he said. “The motto of our organization is helping others in the community. We helped generate 18,000 meals being trucked down to Detroit. That’s all giving back.”

Part of Schiff’s responsibility for his day job is managing a sales team that includes a few dozen new hires, many of them fresh off of college campuses. As meaningful as the outing was for the tangible results of putting food on needy tables, it also was a bonding experience for Pistons employees while illustrating in concrete terms for new employees the organization’s commitment to community.

“The off-season can be kind of a grind when we don’t have games and events,” Schiff said. “For us to get everybody on a bus on a nice day in the summer, get everybody dirty and everybody doing physical labor when a lot of us rarely get to see the sun, and for 26 new sales people to get this exposure to what the Detroit Pistons are all about – we work hard, we play hard – it was fun to see all the new guys having fun. It shows them it’s not just about the basketball team – it’s about working hard for the community, too.”

Employees from top executives to new hires, pulling together workers from departments that don’t often interact, all rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Cureton started out picking kale – “but at my age bending over and standing back up, oof,” he laughed – and wound up moving to the icing stage, which helps preserve the kale for later use.

“Talk about a rewarding experience,” Schiff said. “It was a great cause and something we feel good about. We covered the whole farm ground and I think they were impressed with our efforts – sales working with community relations working with public relations – all on our hands and knees, getting down and getting our hands dirty.”

“It was a fun trip,” Cureton said. “Not only was it fun, it was something desperately needed. They need volunteers to make sure that program can keep going. Arn and Tom support it, it’s something that helps the community and we’re proud that the Pistons are a part of making it work.”