Members of the offensive line served dinner to Homewood residents through the Community Empowerment Association, also providing them with gift cards to purchase turkeys and all the trimmings for their own Thanksgiving meal.
The dinner was hosted by tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, who enlisted his fellow linemen to be part of it.
“I feel like I’ve been here for a few years and haven’t done anything for the community, the people outside of my teammates and my team,” Okorafor said. “I wanted to do something for the people in the area to help them.”
Okorafor said it feels good to give back and hopes the families feel the same.
“It’s cool to help people, to provide them with food and gift cards,” Okorafor said. “But it’s also for them to see us devoting our time to them. I hope it made them feel more special.”
Doing events like this during the holidays adds a special element for players, even though Okorafor didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving growing up in Nigeria.
“I kinda get it,” Okorafor said. “I’m still learning what it’s all about and that’s pretty cool. Helping makes it even better.
“Everyone is going to go through a tough time. We’re here for them, it lets them know we care. We understand that they might not be able to afford something now, they might need to something like that, so it’s special.”
After serving the meal, the players spent time with the families and children, signing autographs, taking photos and having fun.
“It was great to see the Steelers get directly involved in the community,” said Amargie Davis, assistant director of the Community Empowerment Association. “The kids and families had a great time. It’s a great idea to give back and to see the Steelers organization do it. We’re here in the holiday season and it’s all about giving, enjoying of each other’s company, of loving and giving. That’s what it’s all about.”
Linebacker Alex Highsmith and his wife, Alyssa, donated warm winter blankets to the Urban Impact Foundation for families on the North Side of Pittsburgh, along with pies to help top off their Thanksgiving dinner this week.
The donation will help 175 local families helped by Urban Impact’s Thanksgiving distribution.
“It’s so important to use this platform to be a blessing to others,” Highsmith said. “It’s cold now, and knowing that blankets can help people stay warm is meaningful. Also, to help provide them with food, it’s something people need. I’m grateful to be able to do it.
“It’s a season of giving. It’s more rewarding to give than to get. When you know someone is warm and well fed, it brings fulfillment.”
Highsmith has been involved with Urban Impact since arriving in Pittsburgh, an organization he is extremely passionate about.
“It’s so important what Pastor Ed Glover does and everyone who works at Urban Impact,” Highsmith said. “Just to see how they’ve impacted Pittsburgh, and the North Side of Pittsburgh in particular, by investing in the youth, the next generation. I love what they do.
“Their only mission is to bring young children in and give them options. With camps and learning, that’s so important. There are so many kids they’ve impacted. Giving them their life means a lot.”
Defensive lineman Montravius Adams, through the Montravius Adams Legacy Foundation, hosted an Impact Thanksgiving dinner for children at the Carnegie Boys & Girls Club.
“It gives me a break from football, a more real view of what’s going on in the world,” Adams said. “I have to be here with the kids, with the people in the community, who help make the team. They are our fans. My background is kind of similar to a lot of those kids. My non-profit organization is based about single moms.. My main goal is to try to be a role model for the kids. Try to raise them as they raise me. Just try to make a change in the life of the next person.
Adams, who was joined at dinner by tight end Pat Freiermuth, said he just likes to sit and talk with the kids while having family dinner. And of course, you also had to play football, because what would a Thanksgiving meal be without it.
“It was good,” Adams said. “We ate. We played a few games. Pat came over for a bit. We played football for a while. We signed some stuff. We had a great time. It was a blessing.”
For Adams, it was about making an impact on a community that needed a boost.
“That’s my main thing,” Adams said. “I don’t think I had a lot of it where I’m from, but I know it’s something that’s needed and something that I love to give and share with others.”
Defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for families served by the YWCA, spending an evening with them where he served dinner and visited with individuals. Ogunjobi also handed out gift cards to each of the families to help them plan their own Thanksgiving dinner.
“With Thanksgiving fast approaching, we are serving meals to families, we are feeding them,” Ogunjobi said. “It’s always good to be able to give back. It’s important to me, to be a brother in this area.”
Ogunjobi, whose parents, Larry and Mercy Ogunjobi, moved from Nigeria to the United States in 1993, the year before he was born, learned from them what it means to give back.
“My parents have always been donors,” Ogunjobi said. “They used to give out of nothing. So it gave me the heart to give, to be able to help people who need a little help. I think that’s super important. I still want to be a liaison for that because giving back is important.”
For those in the YWCA, it was a timely treat.
“We have partner families from our educational opportunity programs and also from our economic advancement who are very excited about Thanksgiving dinner, family reunion, but also the work we do in the community,” said Angela Reynolds, CEO of the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh. “It’s such an incredible event. The reason why I say even me, I’m a mother, I have children, I have to prepare for my family. It’s a time when we all struggle Prices have gone up Everything is more expensive.
“For someone to say I care enough to give you Thanksgiving dinner, to come and say it’s all handled, just come and eat. For the Steelers organization to do that, for an individual player to say that I care enough about my community to give back, it’s just wonderful.”
Linebacker TJ Watt has worked hand in hand with 412 Food Rescue, an organization he has been affiliated with for several years now.
“I always love getting involved in the community, and 412 Food Rescue has been a great opportunity for me to get out there and let them know that I care about what they’re doing,” Watt said. “I want to get involved as much as possible. 412 Food Rescue provides so many meals for families who don’t necessarily have the ability to afford food, especially with Thanksgiving and all the holidays coming up. It’s a way of give back.”
Watt helped pack food for the Millvale Good Food Project, a hunger relief program run by 412 Food Rescue that turns excess food into healthy, heat-and-eat meals and groceries that are distributed to residents of the region facing food insecurity. Over 500 bags of groceries are packed and disturbed each week in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh Housing Authority.
“Food insecurity is something where people can’t always control their situation in terms of hardship,” Watt said. “We understand that everyone does their best, but sometimes you need a helping hand. That’s what we try to provide. Many of these families have young children who are not in control of the situation in which they were born. To be able to help as much as possible is great.”
Watt began working with the agency in 2019, choosing to team up with 412 Food Rescue, a Pittsburgh-based organization that was founded in response to the disconnect between food waste, hunger, and environmental sustainability, as he knows the importance of having good nutrition and not having to worry about where your next meal is coming from.
412 Food Rescue’s efforts are made possible by their affiliation with local distributors, mom and pop stores, restaurant chains and city farms, all with the goal of not letting quality food go to waste.
“I think it’s important to let everyone who donates, those who might want to donate, know that everything is being used,” Watt said. “Food is not thrown away. It will be put to good use and will make a lot of people happy.”
If you would like to help fight food insecurity, please visit the Community Food Bank of Greater Pittsburgh.