Friday, May 07, 2010

The Weekend Bag Drive

“Breaks Over!! Breaks Over!! shouted Willie Harris. "Wil--you are slowing down the assembly line buddy!!”

Wil Nieves replies: “Me? You look like the one that's struggling a little bit. Look who is sweating and looking tired?”

Joined by teammate Alberto Gonzalez, their wives and Front Office Staff from Our Washington Nationals, Harris and Nieves were inside The Capital Area Food Bank in NE Washington, having some fun and helping out--assembling "Weekend Bags". Meals for kids in need throughout the Washington, D.C. area. The second year in a row--Washington's Major League Baseball Team has volunteered to assist the very organization dedicated to providing nutritious meals for those less fortunate.

“These meals being bagged today are for children that are definitely registered for school breakfast and school lunch," stated Christel Hair, Chief Development Officer for The Capital Area Food Bank. "But what we fear is that when these kids go home in the evenings and on the weekends, they do not have a nutritious meal, nor the necessities to eat a balanced one. So we have a Food For Kids Team that works with a nutrition educator to decide what we pack into each bag. And we make sure there is a protein, a fruit, a vegetable, and a healthy snack included in each bag.”

Some of the items Nationals Staff, Players and wives were bagging this day included peaches, tuna fish, peanut butter, corn, macaroni and an apple cinnamon granola bar. During the course of their 90 minute stay at The Capital Area Food Bank--640 "Weekend Bags" were packaged and boxed--ready to ship to the agencies and families that have registered to participate in the program.

“Whatever we can do to give back to the community is a blessing," believes Wil Nieves. My wife and I (Yormarie) enjoy doing this stuff. That’s why we came back this year and why I brought a few more of my friends from The Nationals--Alberto Gonzalez and his wife (Elaine) and Willie Harris and his wife (Trey). They all joined us. It is fun. And by looking at this effort going on right now--they all seem to be enjoying themselves. In fact, they were good sports about coming (when Wil asked his teammates to attend). They understand how important this is to the community. And it shows that they are not just two great baseball players, but more importantly, great guys too."

Nieves and his friends were also joined by Manuel Serrano--VP of Sales and Broadcasting for SBN (Spanish Beisbol Network)--which broadcasts Our Washington Nationals games in Spanish and SBN's Producer--Erica Strudler. "What is important to understand here today is that a lot of people don’t realize what individual players and a team can do to assist in making more public a community's needs," believes Mr. Serrano. "The fact that these players took their time to be here gives credence to the importance of what The Capital Area Food Bank is doing each and every day."

The Food Bank receives non-perishable donations from over 400 sources. Food America is the umbrella group that works closely to provide products donated through food drives. Over 12,000 volunteers like those from Washington's Baseball Team have allowed The Capital Area Food Bank to save $600,000 in excess costs. Valuable money directed toward their core projects. But still that is not enough. 55% of all donations come from individuals. And as this nation's economy has moved up and down over the past few years, some of The Capital Area Food Bank's cash donation input has sadly gone away.

"That's the very reason for having The Nationals here today, to encourage others to come in and help out in some way," continued Ms. Hair. "We are always in need of food, funding and friends. And these players and their wives are our friends today--volunteering and helping us get the word out. Maybe with times the way things are right now, people don’t realize that we actually exist, or what we do. Or, that we are the hub for so much food that goes out into the Greater Washington area for those in need. The more people know about us, the less children will be left without a nutritious meal at home."

First Lady Michelle Obama visited The Capital Area Food Bank last summer. Former Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have also visited the NE Washington Warehouse over the years. Christel Hair is hoping President Obama will visit soon as part of Michelle Obama's initiative to fight child obesity.

Yesterday's "Weekend Bag" drive was the Kick-Off to promote a special event at Nationals Park during the upcoming weekend series versus The Baltimore Orioles on May 22nd and 23rd. The Annual Food Drive will take place and fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food donations to Center Field Plaza Entrance from the time gates open until the end of the 4th inning during those game dates.

Willie Harris : “We need to help out. We need to help out those less fortunate and give them a lending hand. When someone is in need, it’s not a situation you usually want to let others now about and it can be very hard to ask for help. So being here and assisting today is the least we can do. If we can bring comfort to someone less fortunate just through a simple gesture like this--why not?

"And it makes us feel so much better at the end of the day knowing--we can help make a difference by giving and volunteering,” concluded Trey Harris."

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

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