Redskins hand out turkeys, other food to needy for Thanksgiving

For the last eight years the Washington Redskins have turned FedEx field into a charitable distribution center during the Thanksgiving holiday. Hamil Harris reports.
By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 23, 2010; 7:37 PM

The annual Washington Redskins Thanksgiving food distribution wasn't scheduled to begin until 1 p.m. Tuesday. But Wanda Bullock came early to get a good spot in line, and she wasn't alone.

"It is tough out here. There is nothing wrong about getting a free turkey," said Bullock , a Palmer Park resident who arrived at FedEx Field in Landover at 7:15 a.m. to be among the first of nearly 3,000 people to pick up turkeys, toys and a portion of nearly 50 tons of food at the largest holiday giveaway in the area.

The Redskins hosted the "Harvest Feast" event with the Harris Teeter grocery chain and an army of volunteers from Ryan Homes, FedEx, Wachovia Bank and several nonprofit groups. Tractor-trailers hauled in tons of food supplied by Operation Blessing International, a humanitarian organization.

People receiving donations were pre-screened based on need. Gloria L. Brown, director of the Prince George's Department of Social Services, said eligibility this year was expanded to include the recently unemployed as well as those below the poverty line.

"With the continuing economic downturn, this event was vitally important," Brown said. "We have seen a 71 percent increase in the number of people applying for our food supplement alone over the last couple of years. We are seeing more and more people we are turning away, and this program allowed us to increase the eligibility guidelines of people we could let in."

One person who needed help was Chanda Taylor, a legal secretary and Lanham resident who is now raising her sister's eight children, ages 3 to 17, in addition to her son. Her sister, 32-year-old Tara Taylor of Lanham, drowned last month in Ocean City.

"From the very beginning, I had no doubt that God was going to make a way for us," she said.

After he watched them walk away of FedEx Field with bags of food, Redskins defensive end Phillip Daniels said that he planned to offer additional help to Taylor and the nine children. "This story really touched me. Tough times come along, but it is how you get through them that count."

In addition to handing out food in Landover, team members boarded FedEx trucks and dropped off food at the Largo Landing Fellowship House for seniors, a transitional housing facility in Greenbelt, and Victory House of Palmer Park.

Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth said the food giveaway helps put things in perspective: "People lose sight of the fact that all we do is play a game. It is just a game, we are not saving anybody's lives . . . but you come out here and people get to see us and hug us - it is just a good feeling."

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