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Commanders' 20th annual Harvest Feast makes a difference for Prince George's County families this Thanksgiving

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Thousands passed through Legends Plaza at FedExField to pick up Thanksgiving food baskets and other items that will provide a cherished boost to Thursday holiday celebrations at the Commanders' Harvest Feast on Tuesday. 

"We're still going through hard times, and we needed it," said Catyondia Ballard who picked up a couple of baskets with her fiancée William.   

Established two decades ago by the Washington Commanders Charitable Foundation, the Harvest Feast has offered food assistance and good cheer to make a difference in both the hearts and bellies of D.C., Maryland and Virginia-based families during Thanksgiving.   

Helping hands from within the franchise and in the wider community came together to make Harvest Feast possible. Volunteers, Commanders employees and Team Partners, spent several hours assembling the Thanksgiving baskets on Monday. Guided by the same "first to serve" mentality that propels their everyday work, PG County police were among the volunteers who came out on Tuesday to assist with handing out the baskets.  

"My team is 'Prince George's Proud' to stand with the Washington Commanders to provide a Thanksgiving feast to our neighbors who might go without," said Malik Aziz, PG County PD's Chief of Police.  

Aziz and his colleagues passed out items with group of Washington alumni volunteers. A longtime participant in the annual Harvest Feast, Washington Legend and Ring of Fame member Ken Harvey is passionate about the unique impact the Commanders can have in giving back to the local community.  

"Sport has the power to bring people together and the power to do good," Harvey said. "You see this [Harvest Feast], and you see that there's a lot of people doing good things in the world and that just kind of refreshes the soul to know that there's still goodness out there."

Corporate and non-profit partners were also an essential part of the effort behind Harvest Feast. Regional hunger relief organization Capital Area Food Bank, Black Rifle Coffee, Bank of America, FedEx, Paisano's Pizza, PepsiCo, the Prince George's County Department of Social Services and Safeway all either donated components to the Thanksgiving food baskets and/or supported distribution.    

"There is something really special about being one team today and providing support to our neighbors. The Commanders put together an incredible event that showcased the power of what can be achieved when we all come together," said Melanie Minzes, Senior Director of Institutional Partnerships at Capital Area Food Bank. "Because of Harvest Feast, over 2,000 Prince George's families will sit down to their tables on Thanksgiving with a hearty and full meal, and we're grateful to be a part of that."  

As food costs have risen, this year's edition of Harvest Feast continues to underscore a critical need. Prince George's County, the home of FedExField, has been affected significantly by that development. According to Capital Area Food Bank's third Hunger Report, nearly 1 out of every 2 people in Prince George's County were food insecure at some point last year. Like so many around the country, Harvest Feast attendees Cheree and Kelvin Hoyle have had sticker shock while perusing the grocery store.   

"Food is expensive and with trying to maintain a household of seven, we could really use the help, so we appreciate this," Cheree Hoyle said.   

The hauls collected at the Harvest Feast will lighten a bit of the financial burden of Thanksgiving gatherings in the area. Just as meaningful as the material support of turkeys and side dishes though is the emotional lift that comes from community sharing during the holiday season.  

"You feed somebody for the day, that's kind of simple," Harvey said. "But to know someone cares enough to give you something, it means a whole lot. It can maybe change someone's life."

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