DENVER -- Rockies bullpen coach Darren Holmes' cherished offseason duty, providing food for the needy in Asheville, N.C., once meant loading food into one such family's car. And not just any car."I've gone and put a box in a Mercedes," Holmes said. "You think, 'How in the world? Why would
DENVER -- Rockies bullpen coach Darren Holmes' cherished offseason duty, providing food for the needy in Asheville, N.C., once meant loading food into one such family's car. And not just any car.
"I've gone and put a box in a Mercedes," Holmes said. "You think, 'How in the world? Why would somebody come up in a Mercedes? Are they taking advantage of you?'"
This is where Holmes' admiration for his wife, Kathy, who spearheaded food pantries in Milwaukee and Denver during Holmes' playing career, becomes evident. Kathy Holmes is the driving force behind their effort in greater Asheville -- where the couple grew up, met and eventually settled.
Through the program and his wife, Holmes said he learned that sometimes the biggest gift could be an ear during hard times -- luxury car or not, as we'll find.
The Asheville food bank, which is run by Biltmore Church of God, helps feed 60-75 families a week. The food comes from the local MANNA Food Bank, much of it donated, some of it purchased by the Holmes family with care.
"Not everything is very nutritional; you'd like it to be," Darren Holmes said. "But when you get a chance to get fruits and vegetables, you really want to take advantage of it.
"For this Christmas it was great. Everybody got a whole basket of apples, there were sweet potatoes, peppers, onions, stuff that they could cook with. We had stuff they could make dressing out of."
Keep in mind, this amounts to 2,000-4,000 pounds of food a week. And with Darren away for Spring Training and the regular season, Kathy Holmes does much of the heavy lifting. Son Branson and daughter Brentlie can help hands-on. Daughters Courtney and Hayleigh are working and help financially.
"My wife is amazing," Darren Holmes said. "She's very passionate. She never misses a Wednesday. I get to actually be a part of it during the offseason, which is one of my most favorite things."
A usual Wednesday starts with a pickup of non-perishables at 8 a.m. ET, and the Holmeses create boxes of food based on family size. In the afternoon, meats, frozen vegetables and other foods are added, and families arrive around 4 p.m.
Holmes said he doesn't settle for just handing out food and sending families on their way. Christmas dinner, for example, is an opportunity to learn.
"We give everybody a 10- to 12-pound ham that they could take," Holmes said. "We have some people here, some Russians from the Ukraine, that don't eat pork, so we give them turkey. There are certain people that come to us that are vegans, so they say, 'Don't give us meats, just give us extra vegetables, fruits, stuff like that.'
"It's really good. You make friends. You build relationships. A lot of these people are hurting. They'll come in and ask, 'Could you pray for us? Could you pray for my family?' You get a lot of good ministry opportunities."
Sometimes those opportunities roll up in a Mercedes.
"I remember asking my wife, I said, 'I just delivered a box to a Mercedes.'" Holmes said. "She goes, 'Oh, yeah. That's a family, the husband has cancer, the wife has had to quit work to take care of her husband, and they're out of money and they're struggling. So they come here and they get it.'
"Those same people, once the husband went into remission and they got back on their feet, they then started supporting financially our food bank. So that was really cool."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and** like his Facebook page**.