On a chilly, rainy afternoon in eastern Oklahoma City, a line of people spilled out of the door at Restore OKC. What was at the end of the line was worth the wait.
Lining floors and tables on one side of the market at Restore OKC was four hundred bags stuffed to the rim with Thanksgiving staples such as stuffing, sweet peas and even pumpkin pie mix. On the other side of the market, turkeys and Thanksgiving pies awaited the families patiently standing in line in the neighboring room.
The Thunder, in partnership with Homeland, served up Thanksgiving meals to 400 families at Restore OKC. With no grocery store in the community surrounding Restore OKC in eastern Oklahoma City, the area is defined as a food desert. This ignited the action of Restore OKC, Homeland and the Thunder to make sure everyone in the neighborhood was fed during Thanksgiving.
“It’s amazing to have the Thunder here for lots of reasons but mostly because our community has worked really hard since the closure of our grocery store to open a space, that’s the market,” said Caylee Dodson, executive director at Restore OKC as she motioned with her hand toward the room she was standing in that was filled to the rim with food.
A single mom, holding her son by the hand and trailed closely by her daughter made her way through the market. She was wearing a black Restore OKC t-shirt. She was an employee. Lindsey Castle and her two children benefitted greatly from Restore OKC for more reasons than a free Thanksgiving dinner. Flanked by her two children, Castle recounted all that Restore OKC has meant to her.
The non-profit gave her a second chance at employment and a steady source of income. Although things are moving in the right direction for Castle, the holidays still loomed as burden for her in order to feed her children on Thanksgiving.
“I just think that’s it’s awesome even though I do work here I’m still struggling,” said Castle. “I’m a single mom and so I just think that it’s awesome how this place and [the Thunder] are coming together to help the community. It’s a hard time of year especially for me being a single mom and so it’s just good to have the help.”
“We have incredibly hard-working neighbors and often times they just haven’t had a great on-ramp so this allows them the flexibility at the holiday season to go out and get the stuff that they need for their kids and we’re happy to get behind them,” said Dodson.
"We’re one big family and we have a responsibility to love our neighbor and care for each other."
One-by-one families walked through the market and were given one of the overflowing bags of sides, one turkey and a pie. Guiding them through the assembly line was Rumble, the Thunder girls and a couple of special Thunder faces.
Thunder guard, Hamidou Diallo was in charge of dishing out the bags filled with the sides. Growing up in Queens, New York, Diallo related to the families making their way through Restore OKC making this event hit a little close to home.
“Growing up I didn’t have things like this around my community and for us to be able to come into cities like this and be able to give back to those people that are a little bit less fortunate, same as I was when I was growing up, it’s honestly a blessing. It’s great to see them and it’s great to put smiles on their faces,” said Diallo.
Holding down the turkey line was Andre Roberson who was easily handing out the 16-pound birds as though they were basketballs and not butterballs. With a smile that hardly left his face the entire afternoon, Roberson took in the spirit of the holidays.
“The Thunder and the community work hand in hand so it’s always good to give back especially during the holiday season so it’s great,” said Roberson.
With the help of Restore OKC, Homeland and the Thunder, 400 families will be as stuffed as the turkeys during the holidays. The community known for its lack of fresh food options will be filled with the warmth and the scent of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
“When we see 400 neighbors, 400 families come through here it reminds us we’re all one big family and it’s pretty amazing to just remember we actually do all have a responsibility to love our neighbor and care for each other so it’s been an incredible thing,” said Dodson.
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