The gym was packed, the food was plentiful and the friendly service was provided by the Bills Toyota Rookie Club and a couple of Bills veterans as they served up a delicious Thanksgiving dinner at the Northwest Buffalo Community Center. Over 200 children and their families attended the 9th annual event on Tuesday night.
Veteran offensive lineman Duke Preston has taken a special interest in the NW Buffalo Community Center and has been involved with the Center since he volunteered at this event during his rookie year. "This is a great time to put smiles on kids' faces and it's fun to see all the guys volunteer," said Preston. "We like to speak at schools and help the community on our day off."
"We've been blessed to have Duke Preston do extra things for us," said Tony Williams, NW Buffalo Community Center program director. "He epitomizes what families do for families."
The Bills Toyota Rookie Club has attended this event for the past seven years and the event has grown from about 50 attendees to well over 200 since their involvement. The children and families in attendance are not just from Buffalo but also from surrounding communities.
Williams said, "We put community first and are always looking at ways to do more. It's about the kids and all kids are welcome but we also provide after school programs, social programs, counseling services, youth services, healthcare and senior citizen programs."
The players served food, took pictures with the kids and their families, signed autographs and each player told the audience what they were most thankful for this Thanksgiving. Players consistently said they were thankful for their families, friends and teammates. Rookie cornerback Leodis McKelvin added, "I'm thankful for being able to do things like this night and be with you kids and your families."
Bills in attendance were Duke Preston and fellow veteran offensive lineman Jason Whittle. In addition to Leodis McKelvin, players participating in this year's Bills Toyota Rookie Club are cornerback Reggie Corner, defensive end Chris Ellis, tight end Derek Fine, wide receiver James Hardy, wide receiver Steve Johnson, running back Xavier Omon, linebacker Marcus Buggs, running back Bruce Hall, wide receiver CJ Hawthorne,tight end Jonathan Stupar, and offensive lineman Brandon Rodd and Demetrius Bell.
The food was cooked for the ninth year in a row by Ms. Juanita Anderson and it didn't go unnoticed. When Duke Preston said he was thankful for Ms. Anderson and the great food, the crowd gave her a rousing ovation and she was visibly moved by the love shown for her efforts.
Ms. Anderson and other volunteers were working continuously throughout the evening making sure food was constantly replenished. Ironically, Ms. Anderson never got to eat any of her fixings! She noted that she has a lot of help and if it wasn't for all the volunteers, she would never be able to make it happen.
NW Buffalo Community Center executive director Larry Pernick, Jr. said, "This is a unique opportunity for this program and with the Bills' support we have been able to grow. For the kids, this is a positive memory, the highlight of their year and for some, a reward for their successful academic progress."
Everyone left with a great experience and of course, a full stomach.
The Mission of the Northwest Buffalo Community Center is to achieve a standard of excellence that enhances the quality of life through the delivery of diversified and comprehensive human services. Further, they strive to improve and maintain an efficient grass roots community based organization that is recognized for its innovative and progressive programming. For more information regarding the NW Buffalo Community Center, please visit www.nwbccinc.org.