The Josh Howard Foundation continued its annual tradition last week of treating senior citizens to a free holiday meal.
Tickets were given to about 200 local seniors, entitling them to a free turkey meal at the K&W Cafeteria on Healy Drive on the day before Thanksgiving.
The Foundation is the charitable organization of NBA Player Josh Howard, a Winston-Salem native who was a standout player at Wake Forest University before going on to play for NBA teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards and Utah Jazz. Howard just signed a one year contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 15. The Foundation’s good deeds extend beyond Winston-Salem to the cities where Howard has played pro ball.
Steve Nivens, the Foundation’s Community Relations manager, says seniors are often the focus of the Foundation’s activities because Howard is very close to his grandmother, who helped raise him. Children are another focus. Howard holds an annual free basketball camp for local kids, often bringing in high-profile basketball talent to help conduct the training.
Nivens said the Thanksgiving meal tickets were distributed through churches, recreation centers and Healy Towers senior apartments, in hopes that seniors would bring friends with them to eat.
“Josh sponsors about 200 senior citizens just so they can get together and see each other for old times, because a lot of them don’t get to come out,” said Nivens. “…So we just try to keep the bond, keep the community strong.”
Though Howard’s game schedule keeps him away from most of the Foundation’s events, he personally conceives of and often funds the initiatives, said Nivens. He added that last year, Howard actually made a surprise appearance at K&W for the Thanksgiving event. He wasn’t playing at the time because of the NBA lockout. NBA teams are back in action now. In fact, Howard and the T-Wolves had a game the night of the event. Still, many senior diners said they felt Howard was there in spirit and expressed gratitude for his generosity.
[pullquote]“I think it’s wonderful because he has the heart to give back to the community, which I’m sure he feels gave so much to him as he was growing up,” said Jo Ann Brown.[/pullquote]“I think it’s wonderful because he has the heart to give back to the community, which I’m sure he feels gave so much to him as he was growing up,” said Jo Ann Brown.
Brown gave tickets to friends Lamar Perry and Judy Felder. The three enjoyed the pre-Thanksgiving meal and fellowship. Perry praised Howard, who attended and played at Glenn High School, for not forgetting his roots. She said Howard is showing those who look up to him through his actions that everyone should reach back, regardless of how high they climb in life.
“As … a role model, (he is) letting them know when you have the opportunity to move ahead, you still have an obligation,” said Perry.
Many who got tickets still had plans to enjoy a big Thanksgiving meal the next day with family members. Felder said the free meal and outing was a great break from holiday preparations.
“It gave me a break from the kitchen baking this morning,” she said.
At another table, Beverly Lowe, Cassie Taylor and Homer Franklin Cooper dined together. They all came from Healy Towers, a public housing complex for seniors just a short distance away from the restaurant. They all said that it was a great idea to give out tickets at the complex because some of their neighbors might not have gotten a turkey dinner otherwise.
“It’s very nice because a lot of people can’t afford it,” said Lowe.