By Nicholas Fouriezos, The Baltimore Sun
4:57 PM EDT, October 27, 2013
Hands that were more accustomed to pushing practice sleds or catching footballs were used to help distribute food, clothing and aid to Baltimore's poor on Sunday.
The Meade football team served about 200 homeless and poverty-stricken locals for Happy Helpers for the Homeless at Our Daily Bread Employment Center as part of an outreach program suggested by junior varsity defensive lineman NaQuan Wilds.
"I was saying that in the future, I would like to help the community," said Wilds, who started serving at Happy Helpers last December. "My mom said, 'Why not help now?' "
The Mustangs sophomore was inspired after watching Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade talk about his work with the homeless while receiving the humanitarian award at the BET Awards in June. Wilds began attending Happy Helpers regularly, and three weeks ago, he decided that he should get his teammates involved as well.
JV coach Reggie Leach said he was already looking for a team-building activity when Wilds approached him with the opportunity to educate and to serve.
"We believe that football is only the vehicle to go to the next level of accomplishment," Leach said. "Football isn't everything. We try to teach them community skills, working with people other than their teammates, that type of thing."
LaTia Davis attended the Feeding the Homeless event with her 2-month-old nephew, Akia. She said it was nice to see the students serving in their gold-and-black football jerseys.
"A lot of kids in these situations don't have clothes," Davis said. "Here we can get them food and clothes."
Sophomore Michael Coolie was most surprised by the children, who cheerfully took drinks, sandwiches and tiny shoes and added them to their plastic bags.
"I didn't know that there are kids out there who don't have anything to eat," Coolie said. "I didn't know their struggles. I thought I was struggling, but they've got it worse."
Jamarkeus Hammond, a junior running back and linebacker on the varsity squad, said he was nervous at first, but also excited to be giving back to the community.
"This is my first time coming here and experiencing something like this. I was surprised, of course," Hammond said. "It opens your eyes. It makes you not take what you have for granted."
LaTonya Wilds, NaQuan's mother, took on the role of community coordinator to help set up the event. She wore her own Mustangs jersey, with "Wilds' Mother" proudly displayed on the back, while pointing out that most of the players were lucky to be in stable environments.
"We don't go to Baltimore a lot. They don't see these types of things, typically," LaTonya said. "We just wanted them to see that there are people in need and that we should help them."
Bobbi Coffman, a Meade special education teacher, is also a Feed the Homeless representative and serves at Happy Helpers often. She was able to plan the event with the school. The group passed out items, including a wide variety of food, such as oatmeal and cereal, microwavable macaroni and cheese, various drinks, magazines and winter clothing.
LaTonya was proud that her son's desire to help others had come to fruition.
"It kind of makes me want to cry a little bit," she said. "I feel like he's getting to that point of realizing that it's not just about him — it's about other people, too."
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