November 21, 2012
By Sam Rolens
When Brad Lubeck, 11, and his mother Stacey showed up at the Alameda County Community Food Bank for an afternoon of volunteering with his Boy Scout troop, he didn’t expect much in the way of thrills. Food bank staff showed Brad and the others what to do with the broccoli and carrots they’d be unloading, and said it would be the Scouts’ job to teach the process to another group of volunteers arriving shortly.
Then the surprise was sprung. Six giants in black and silver strolled up to the boys and asked for instructions. The Oakland Raiders had arrived.
Brad, who is something of a football fan, would be beaming for the rest of the day as he packed up carrots. “We have a cat named Raider,” said his mother. “He got to name it.”
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor, long snapper Jon Condo, wide receiver Derek Hagan, linebacker Aaron Curry, defensive end Matt Shaugnessy and running back Taiwan Jones sorted donated food alongside local high school students, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts at the Food Bank’s warehouse across the highway from the Coliseum.
“I wear the black and silver on TV every Sunday,” said Condo. “Kids look up to us. Adults look up to us. This shows people watching that we’re in this together for the cause of our community.” Condo said that every Tuesday, which is the only day off from workouts for the Raiders, members of the team are volunteering somewhere in the city. Condo, originally from Pennsylvania, said the community spirit he’s seen in Oakland has impressed him. “They’re very dedicated people,” he said. “It’s a close-knit community committed to helping each other.”
The Oakland Raiders are also hosting a virtual food drive over the holiday season in partnership with the Food Bank that collects money for food and supplies.
The cavernous warehouse is kept cold inside. Volunteering kids wore warm beanies and coats on Tuesday, while the Raiders wore their jerseys without pads or helmets. Conversation was lively, as kids clustered around one or two towering players at each of the cardboard boxes holding donated vegetables.
Big hands and small hands worked quickly through the veggies, while conversation covered primarily school and football. “They’re tough,” said Condo, who was paired with Brad’s Scout troop. “They’re hard little workers—packing carrots just as fast as I was.”
Food Bank communications manager Mike Altfest said the facility needs all the help it can get from volunteers in the weeks leading up to the holiday season. “The operation is ticking this time of year the way we’d want it to be ticking all year,” said Altfest. The Food Bank provides food for 49,000 people (enough food for roughly 300,000 meals) each week through its 275 partner food pantries, soup kitchens and other facilities.
But the amount of donations peaks at this time of year, said Altfest, and so does the Food Bank’s need for volunteers. People tend to sign up for shifts during the holiday season, he said, but interest starts flagging by January. He encourages anyone who wants to volunteer to sign up for shifts after the holidays by using the Food Bank’s volunteer webpage.
“The Raiders have been helping us out a lot this year,” said Altfest. “It’s a great morale booster, and it helps bring awareness to hunger in Oakland.”
Not far from the Food Bank’s warehouse, at the Columbian Gardens Food Pantry, pro-bowl defensive tackle Richard Seymour was handing out frozen chickens, canned corn and collard greens, and boxed stuffing mix with the help of his family. Altfest said Seymour had specifically asked to pass out food, and that the appearance was “just something Richard wanted to do.” Seymour was helped by his wife Tanya, his kids Richard, Kayla, Kennedy and London, and other friends and family.