NEW YORK -- When Xavier Murillo was growing up in Queens Village, N.Y., in a family of eight, he would go to church on Tuesday nights with his little sister, stepdad and grandmother. After the service had ended, they would make their way over to Elmcor Youth & Adult Activities, Inc. -- a non-profit organization that has provided comprehensive programs for all age groups in the East Elmhurst/Corona neighborhood of Queens since 1965.
With their pushcart in tow, they would wait in line outside the Louis Armstrong Recreation Center for the group’s monthly food pantry, during which volunteers would distribute canned goods and fresh produce to families from underserved communities.
Murillo was reminded of that on Wednesday, as the now-senior art manager of brand and content marketing for Major League Baseball was one of 10 volunteers from the company’s Business Resource Groups (BRGs) who spent four hours helping Elmcor provide nearly 500 families with all the food and fixings they would need in preparation for Thanksgiving.
“Being on the other side of it feels full-circle, and very rewarding to me,” said Murillo, who co-leads the SOMOS BRG that organized the event for the second straight year.
Backed by a $2,500 donation pooled between SOMOS, Athletes to Executives, MLB Women and H.Y.P.E, the employees were able to deliver turkeys, stuffing, boxed mashed potatoes, canned pumpkin pie, green beans and canned cranberry sauce. That was in addition to the food pantry’s typical offerings, which included pasta, beans, soup, fruit and vegetables.
And given the league’s partnership with Lysol over the course of the pandemic, the MLB volunteers also distributed about 500 canisters of disinfectant wipes and spray to help protect families as the weather turns cold and people are more likely to remain indoors.
That was equally important for a predominately Hispanic community that was hit especially hard by COVID-19, in terms of illness, loss of jobs and food insecurity.
“At some point, it’s not just about donating the money, donating the product; it’s also the time,” said Anthony Pardo, director of partnership activation and fellow co-lead of the SOMOS BRG. “It’s not often [that] organizations do both; usually, you only get one or the other. So we were super happy to be able to do both and contribute a few hours out of our day -- especially now that we’re in the offseason -- to help make a difference in the lives of these families.”
The employees played a hands-on role in that effort, partnering with Elmcor’s volunteers to manage assembly line-style pantries on each side of the gymnasium. With long lines that wrapped around the block, MLB’s employees unpackaged and restocked goods, flattened and recycled boxes and filled the families’ bags with their designated quantities of food.
Knowing that the families were in a hurry to go about their busy lives, having to make dinner or pick up their kids, the employees moved quickly and efficiently. Not even a throng of children storming into the gym to play pickup basketball after school slowed the volunteers’ momentum. It was simply a reminder of Elmcor’s multifaceted position in the community, and why it sought the center as a partner.
“We want to help the people. That’s what we’re all about,” said Willie Rodriguez Jr., senior manager of customer support and incoming SOMOS head. “Something that’s very prevalent to me is Roberto Clemente. This is something he’s always done: giving back to the people. And that’s how I look at it. … Whatever it is they need, we’re always there, and I think they think highly of that and take highly to that. So it’s a match made in heaven.”
The same could be said for the collaboration between the MLB BRGs. While many of the groups share similar missions, it isn’t often that they embark on service projects together. It took dedicated outreach from SOMOS across the company’s internal channels to make Wednesday’s event possible, but the strength in numbers the employees showed -- while all donning their respective BRGs’ T-shirt -- was evident to everyone present.
As Brody Cook, coordinator of player social in the new media department and incoming head of the Black Professionals BRG, put it: “More hands make lighter work.”
“It’s really important, if not imperative,” Cook said. “If we’re not doing this, then in so many ways we’re not doing our job. We all have jobs and titles and different departments, but at the end of the day, it’s about what we’re doing collectively to make the world better outside of our positions on the day to day. So I think finding communities like this where there’s obviously some synergy and overlap between Latinos and Afro-Latinos and Black people -- we are able to tackle a whole lot of things at the same time. … It’s huge. Imperative.”