Thanksgiving is one of this nation’s oldest holidays and an opportunity for families to come together and appreciate all the things, large and small, that helped get its members through the year.
For retired Navy Sgt. Grant Allen and his family, it was a challenging year after he retired from the Air Force reserves to work on a security force government contract.
It was during that time that the government sequesters went into effect and his contract was terminated, leaving his wife and four children looking for answers.
Coming to Prince George’s County from New York, his wife from California, the ‘Allen Team’ had no local family to turn to, and he was unwilling to uproot his family with three children in school. The family tapped into what savings they had and enlisted help from Prince George’s County Social Services in order to get by.
Several weeks ago, he reached out to Prince George’s county with a letter, thanking them for their hospitality and blessing during his time of need.
“Out of the blue, just the other day, they called us and told us they were responsible for picking a family a family to represent us today, and your family is deserving of such,” he said. “So it was a blessing, it really was.”
Sgt. Allen and his family were selected as the first family to receive Thanksgiving meals at the 11th annual Bank of America Harvest Feast, presented by Ryan Homes, conducted Saturday at FedExField.
In addition to a holiday bird and side dishes provided by Harris Teeter, the Allen Family will be one of 3,500 Prince George’s households that will receive a women’s bag full of Mary Kay cosmetics, a kids’ bag full of toys and we’ve got an assortment of items for Thanksgiving.
“I’d like to say thank you and thank you to God for the opportunity to be blessed,” Sgt. Allen said. “I’d also like to say thank you to the Washington Redskins for all that they do for this community.”
Since 2003, the Redskins have gifted more than 864,100 pounds of packaged and fresh food and 385,500 pounds of turkey to area families in need.
At this year’s Harvest Feast, the Redskins will gift 103,085 pounds of packaged and fresh food and 42,000 pounds of turkey.
Even though players had practice tonight, preparing for the Monday Night Football matchup vs. the San Francisco 49ers,
For families that couldn’t make it to the stadium, FedEx Special Delivery trucks were loaded and sent off to the Prince George’s community.
“Eleven years ago, we started this Thanksgiving Feast because we really wanted to give back to local community surrounding the stadium in Prince George’s County,” Redskins owner Dan Snyder said. “We understood that there was a need and we could fulfill that need.
“We started it and at first, people didn’t really know about us and we only gave out about 300-400 Thanksgiving meals. Now, we’re giving out 3,500 family meals.
“We really are blessed to be a part of this and we really are thankful that the P.G. County officials could be here today. It’s been a great honor to have this.”
In order to make the greatest impact on the community, the Washington Redskins team with county official, social services and Operation Blessing International for the event.
John McCoy, procurement account manager for Operation Blessing, praised the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and quantified the impact of the annual event.
“I’d like to thank Mr. Snyder and the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation for their continued partnership in the annual Harvest Feast,” he said. “Operation Blessing is extremely proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish working alongside one of the NFL’s most iconic organizations.
“The goal of Operation Blessing is to alleviate human need and suffering both at home and abroad and that’s exactly what we’re doing here today. That’s why this partnership with the Washington Redskins is such a perfect fit for us.
“They are whole-heartedly committed to making their community a better place, and that is something we’re really excited about.”
Over the last 11 years, the Washington Redskins have helped make a holiday for 20,000 families in Prince George’s County that otherwise would not have the means to celebrate.
After a year of unexpected twists and turns, families like the Grants can definitively say that they have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season.
In addition to the food they will partake in and the gifts they will enjoy, Sgt. Allen said he was back at school full time and had a number of job interviews set up, as the government and agencies come back online.
“It’s taken some time,” he said. “But we are blessed.”
Looking over proudly at his family, he noted that his son, Grant Allen Jr., was on cloud nine.
“My son is a huge Redskins fan, he really is,” he said. “This is an experience he will never forget. Thank you very much, God bless you all, and everybody have a happy Thanksgiving.”