As he watched others file into FedEx Field for free turkeys and Thanksgiving baskets given out by the Washington Redskins and other companies, Andre Miller and his wife never thought that they would be among those in need this Thanksgiving.
But Miller, a 29-year-old Army veteran who was deployed in Afghanistan, and his wife Nicole, who currently is in the Army National Guard, were among more than 3,500 families that received items Tuesday during the tenth annual Redskins-Harris Teeter Harvest Feast.
“I feel kind of funny because in the military everything was given to you but when you get out, the way I got out, you have to fend for yourself,” said Andre Miller, whose family of seven was identified by the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs as a family that deserved help this Thanksgiving.
Prince Georges County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said he isn’t surprised that military veterans were among those in need Tuesday.
“We are finding that a lot of veterans who are coming back into this area need help and this is just one way of giving back, another way is helping veterans who are looking for housing,” he said.
From the Millers to the Rev. Eugene O. Wright, a Bowie minister, those in need came from all walks of life to the annual holiday distribution. The event also attracted more than 500 volunteers from the grocery chain, FedEx, Ryan Homes, Wells Fargo as well as former players and officials.
“This is a team effort. I am proud of all the volunteers,” said Tanya Snyder, wife of Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who opened the distribution instead of her husband and current Redskins because they are preparing to play the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.
But filling in for the current squad were former players, cheerleaders, the Hogs and retired trainer Bubba Tyer, who at 70, was tossing turkey and stuffing bags as fast as prep athletes from Wilson High School. The students were also handing out food even though an ineligible player cost them an appearance in the Turkey Bowl on Thursday.
“I think that this matters more than what the Redskins do on the field,” said Wilson High School Athletic Director Mitch Gore, adding that “this is what it is all about, supporting the community.”
As she held her 1-year-old daughter in one hand and a bag of groceries in the other, Shanett McIlwain said, “This means a lot to me and I am very appreciative, it is a blessing.”
In addition to receiving food, the Washington Redskins also gave the Millers free tickets to the team’s final game of the season against Dallas at FedEx Field.