Thanksgiving came a little early for nearly 3,000 residents on the Eastside of Jacksonville on Tuesday, November 25 at A. Philip Randolph Park. A dozen Jaguars players led by cornerback Fernando Bryant and over 250 Wachovia and Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. volunteers gave away two truckloads of groceries to local residents. The groceries were provided by Winn-Dixie and Operation Blessing, a national nonprofit humanitarian relief organization.
"It was good to see a lot of the fellas come out. The turn out that we had from Operation Blessing, Wachovia and Winn-Dixie, it has gotten bigger every year. Over my time here I have seen how much it has affected the community," said Bryant.
"It was good to be out there giving the people groceries that they need for Thanksgiving," Jaguars linebacker Akin Ayodele said. "It was also good to see a lot of my teammates out there. Growing up not everybody had the same opportunity…we're definitely blessed, especially during these times. It felt good."
Families with registration flyers were eligible to receive two free bags of mixed grocery products on a first-come, first served basis. Families also received a bag of powdered milk provided by USDA's Farm Service Agency. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) worked with the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to develop a plan for direct feeding of hungry people in America. Jim Little, Administrator of USDA's Farm Service Agency came all the way from Washington, D.C. to take part in this special day and helped give away the dried milk.
In addition, nine area agencies that serve the disadvantaged throughout the First Coast region picked up boxes of frozen turkeys donated by Jaguars players and staff. Free glaucoma screenings were offered by the Vision is Priceless Council, and blood pressure screenings were offered by the National Kidney Foundation of Florida. Community Asthma Partnership was also on hand to distribute literature. Wachovia volunteers read to children, who also got the opportunity to meet Santa Claus and receive a goody bag.