Over the past week, and continuing through the Thanksgiving holiday, many Buffalo Bills players are putting their time, energy and resources into giving back to the Buffalo community.
Last Tuesday, Stefon Diggs held his first annual turkey giveaway at the Imagine Staffing headquarters in downtown Buffalo. This had been a tradition for Diggs in Minnesota in which he wanted to keep it alive in Buffalo and give back to the Bills community that welcomed him with open arms.
"It's my first time, and first opportunity to get to do it in Buffalo," Diggs said Tuesday night. "Because of COVID and everything that happened last year, I didn't get that full experience with Bills Mafia in the community. So, I felt like it was important to do it this year by any means necessary. … I'm blessed that I'm in a great situation. I just want to keep pushing this thing forward and keep a good thing going."
The event provided 500 families with Wegmans turkeys and Wegmans gift certificates to make sure they could have a full Thanksgiving meal this year. Diggs opted for the gift cards as well because he knows that the turkeys wouldn't have been enough and wanted the families to have a choice in what they make for this holiday season.
Diggs' father passed away when he was 14 years old, and his mother had to raise him and his two younger brothers by herself. He watched his mom figure it out and he said she became 'Superwoman'. Because of this Diggs wanted to focus on giving back to single moms in the community. His giveaway event benefited the WNY Women's Foundation's Economic Mobility Program as well as the First Fruits Food Pantry.
The WNY Women's Foundation's economic empowerment programs help lift single mothers and their families out of poverty by supporting education and training leading to family-sustaining jobs. One mother who was blessed to meet Diggs and be at the event was Karen Lash who was there with her 13-year-old son Timothy. Lash is finishing up her associate's degree at ECC and admitted at times she didn't think she would be able to finish the program. She got the good news that night that she was on track to graduate and that along with meeting Diggs made it a very memorable night for her.
"Well, I truly feel special," Karen Lash said. "I was honored to meet him, and I felt Mr. Diggs is very sweet-spirited. When I went there to talk with him, and he signed the back of our shirts. I said, 'oh cool' and I had my pen there. But he said, 'don't worry mom, I gotcha, I gotcha' and so right there, there was a connection because I just need something to make me feel good."
Stefon Diggs, Tremaine Edmunds, Jordan Poyer, Zack Moss, Levi Wallace and others participated in Thanksgiving events for the Buffalo community in 2021.
The First Fruits Food Pantry is located at Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church and is a healthy pantry providing non-processed foods and produce to those in need. Rita Hubbard-Robinson is the head coordinator of the pantry and Rev. George Nicholas is the pastor of the church where the pantry is located. They were both at the event and were grateful that Diggs reached out to them and wanted to support their pantry and the people that rely on it.
"Well, it's a great opportunity for us to have additional resources to help so many families that are in need," Nicholas said. "But it's also very inspiring to see a young man like Stefon Diggs take the time, not only to write the check to do this but to have a conversation to meet some of the people in the community."
"I'm really just honored to just be a part of this something like this, that hopefully will be transformative, and not just a transaction just handing out some turkeys on Thanksgiving," Hubbard-Robinson said.
For Diggs, this is only the beginning. To be able to be a positive influence in these people's lives, provide for them and meet with them in person is something that he is passionate about. He knows that he is a star in the Buffalo community for what he does on the field, but he wants to make a bigger impact off it.
"It means a lot to me," Diggs said. "This is definitely something I felt like it was a small step in the right direction. … What better way not only just to play football but to get back into the community and give back too. I'm extremely blessed so I should be paying it forward, and I should be giving it back. I'm in an amazing position, God blessed me and I want to give it all back, and pour it back into the community."
Other Bills' players giving back ...
In addition to what Diggs' efforts in the community, more than 10 other players did something to give back to the Buffalo community or their hometowns.
Last week, Tremaine Edmunds, Jordan Poyer, Zack Moss, Reid Ferguson, and Jaquan Johnson hosted meal distributions, served families hot dinners, and paid for meals for military families.
Edmunds sponsored a Thanksgiving dinner for 100 visitors at the Salvation Army's family shelter. He was there serving meals, signing autographs, and making connections with the families.
Poyer and Moss teamed up with local Buffalo businesses to provide a Thanksgiving dinner to patients and families at the Buffalo-based non-profit, Kids Escaping Drugs. Each family also received a turkey and a grocery store gift card.
Johnson, for the second consecutive year, hosted a thanksgiving meal distribution and The Northwest Community Center.
Johnson is blessed to be able to give back to the community because he knows he was in their shoes once and wants to use his platform to help people. He feels that most of the time athletes seem untouchable because people only see them on TV. Johnson wants to change that and wants people to know that they are just like them and they grew up like they did. At his event, Johnson gave this message to the kids there.
"I was telling them to be thankful for everything that they have," Johnson said. "That's another thing that their parents taught them, that's what I did when I was younger. I told them to believe in themselves and that anything is possible. I was just in their shoes when I was younger and look at me now. So, anything is possible."
Levi Wallace and Cam Lewis showed up and Johnson's event which made it even more special. Wallace also attended the event put on by Poyer and Moss. It meant everything to Johnson that his teammates showed up for him and further cemented the fact they are a family on and off the field.
Ed Oliver, Tre'Davious White and Mario Addison sponsored turkey dinner giveaways in their hometowns this past week. Oliver sponsored a drive-thru turkey giveaway for families in Marksville, LA. White sponsored the distribution of 1,000 turkeys and canned goods and stuffing to his hometown of Shreveport, LA. Addison sponsored a turkey giveaway for 300 families and gave 10 families a gift card to purchase a full Thanksgiving meal in Birmingham, AL.
This week, Jon Feliciano will be distributing 300 Thanksgiving dinners to families at the Belle Center in Buffalo. Emmanuel Sanders will be providing meals to families of the Harriet Ross Tubman Academy – where he relaunched his foundation in September. He will be personally delivering them to the families.
For these Bills players, it's more than just about giving back but making a connection with the community and making them feel special. The players truly are selfless and just want to give back to either a fan base that has made them feel so incredibly special or their hometowns who helped mold them into the people they are today.
"Wherever you can impact no matter where you are, if it's from your city or not, I think you should always try and do that," Moss said. "Because it doesn't matter if there's people that you know or that you don't know. You should want to impact as many lives as you can when you've been blessed in a lot of ways."