CHICAGO – The third annual Homeplate Turkey Drive organized by White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson and his wife, Bria, through their League of Leaders outreach program had a little different feel in 2020 than it did in 2019.
“Usually our turkey drive is a huge festival. We had families out, the kids out,” Bria told MLB.com before their 2 1/2-hour event Monday. “We had entertainment, games and a bounce house for the kids and all sorts of giveaways and raffles.
“Last year it was a huge community event. So for us to have to make those adjustments, it’s sad but definitely necessary to make sure we keep everyone safe.”
Changes were needed due to COVID-19. Instead of festivities for the entire family at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala., 205 pre-ordered turkeys were gifted to families from the comfort of their vehicles. They were dropped in the trunks of the respective cars by volunteers at Tim’s alma mater.
But there might not be a more important year for the generous Andersons to give, with families not only wanting to celebrate Thanksgiving but simply feed their loved ones in tough times. Bria provided examples.
“What we are seeing are a lot of young mothers with children and a lot of older senior grandmothers with children in the home,” Bria said. “So, it’s really nice to be able to make that connection with the youth of Tuscaloosa even during COVID to let them know our organization is still here to support in any way that we can.
“People are still celebrating Thanksgiving. They are hoping to, anyway. For example, there’s one family [where the lady] was not going to celebrate Thanksgiving because with COVID she lost her job and has been struggling financially. Because we are doing the frozen turkeys and giveaways and things like that, she is actually able to celebrate Thanksgiving. So, in cases like that, they are super rewarding.
“We had a pastor reach out to us,” Bria said. “She has received about 10 or 13 of our turkeys because she is planning to cook them and feed them to the homeless community in her neighborhood. When I spoke with her, she didn’t know where she was going to get the money to pay for her turkeys. Again, it’s rewarding to be able to step in and help in cases where we really don’t know all the details of what everyone is going through.”
Personal interaction has been a key trait through the League of Leaders and for the Andersons, who not only support monetarily via their charitable cause but with their heart and soul. Tim pointed out they already have planned and plotted and thought about the future to adapt to what’s going on, but kind of keep the things they have. They recently joined a group of White Sox front office members and a team from United Airlines on a Zoom call during a virtual workforce development event for the Youth Guidance’s Alumni Program, as an example.
They also donated caps and gowns this summer to a group of graduating seniors at Hillcrest High School.
“It definitely means a lot just to be able to spread love,” Tim said. “Just to be able to provide is definitely a blessing.”
“Little things,” Bria said. “Whatever we can do to still try to show our support and continue to have those ties to the community.”
A Christmas toy drive in Chicago is set to follow the turkey drive, with Peyton, the Andersons’ 4-year-old daughter, coming up with that idea in August.
“She wanted to give a lot of toys to kids for Christmas,” said Bria of their oldest of two daughters. “She hasn’t really let go of that idea, so we’ve made the decision to get a Christmas toy drive together going for her.”
A first turkey drive three years ago yielded 10 giveaways, but they gave away 205 last year in connection to the 205 area code for Tuscaloosa and another 205 this year along with a Chicago White Sox charities grab bag for each family. That total might increase for Year 4.
“Every time we have an event, they are always our first ones to help out and donate or sponsor some part of the event,” said Bria of the White Sox. “They are amazing.”
“For my daughter, as she grows older, she’s going to be with us on these events and doing this charity work,” Tim said. “She’s going to pretty much have a good understanding.”