Since Harvest Feast began in 2003, the Washington Football Team has gifted more than 1,512,335 pounds of packaged and fresh food and 610,500 pounds of turkey to families in need in Prince George's County, Maryland. Several changes were made this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, but with the help of partners and sponsors like, Ryan Homes, Capital Area Food Bank, Safeway, PepsiCo, and Bank of America, the annual two-day event continued during a time when families need it the most.
"This year's Harvest Feast is different than years past, but these efforts are more important than ever to ensure that every family in need enjoys a Thanksgiving meal," said Julie Jensen, Washington Football's Senior Vice President of External Engagement & Communications.
On Tuesday, about 100 volunteers gathered to assemble 5,000 bags of dry goods, perishables and beverages in a socially distanced format. Among the volunteers were the First Ladies of Football and Washington Football Alumni including Rock Cartwright, Arie Kouandjio and Joshua Morgan.
For Kouandjio, giving back to the DMV community hits closer to home because he grew up only 20 minutes from FedExField.
"I was probably one of the cars that was here in this parking lot, maybe ten years ago. ...It's special that people are coming together and putting their brains and time together to make something like this happen."
The following day, volunteers, First Ladies of Football and Washington Football Alumni including Ricky Ervins, Arie Kouandjio, Will Montgomery, Santana Moss and Fred Smoot, gathered at FedExField to distribute about 90,000 pounds of packaged food and fresh produce, as well as 30,000 pounds of turkey to over 2,5000 families in the community.
As cars lined up and wrapped around FedExField's parking lot, volunteers dispersed into different stations to begin handing out the packaged goods in a safe and contactless, drive-thru format. To keep everyone distanced, cars pulled through four separate lanes and were greeted by groups of three, who placed the bagged items in the trunk of the car. To the delight of many participants, they were greeted in the lanes by former players of the burgundy and gold.
Former center Will Montgomery was one of those special guests, delicately placing bags of goods in the trunks of cars. He has been volunteering at the Harvest Feast for the past four years, and a pandemic wasn't going to stop him from giving back to the community.
"Seeing the smile on their faces and knowing that we can make a difference," Montgomery said about coming back every year. "I think this is a very deserving community."
The 18th Annual Harvest Feast presented by Ryan Homes serves as our pre-Thanksgiving food distribution event for Prince George's County residents in need. This event is made possible through the generosity of our partners and sponsors, specifically, Ryan Homes, Safeway, Bank of America, Capital Area Food Bank, PepsiCo, Prince George's County Department Social Services and the Washington Football Charitable Foundation. On Monday November 16, volunteers assisted in assembling 7,500 bags of dry goods, perishables and beverages that were distributed to 2,500 families the following day, Tuesday, November 17 through a drive-thru, safe and contactless format. (Photos courtesy of Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team, Joe Noyes and Jose Argueta)
As the event wound down, the spirits were still high. Former players Fred Smoot and Santana Moss even broke out a few dance moves with volunteers and of course led by the First Ladies of Football in between putting turkeys in the back of families' cars.
"I've always been a giver; that's me at heart," said Moss. "It's a no brainer for me. Anytime you can give back, to anyone in need or anyone period, you should always sign yourself up."