Reds, Freestore Foodbank hold Thanksgiving food drive

November 18th, 2022

The Reds Community Fund and Freestore Foodbank teamed up for the third consecutive year to host a pre-Thanksgiving family food distribution at the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy on Thursday.

More than 2,500 families were given all the fixings required for a holiday feast: turkey, potatoes, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, and cranberry sauce, along with fresh produce. With so many people to serve in a six-hour window, it was all hands on deck for employees of Freestore and the Reds, in addition to generous volunteers.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to get the families through very quickly,” Freestore Foodbank president & CEO Kurt Reiber said. I think the beautiful part about it is when they see this opportunity and the partnership we have with the Reds, the folks here realize that the entire community has their back and is really trying to support them in their hour of need. There are so many families living paycheck to paycheck, and being able to help them bridge the gap between what they can and can’t provide really makes a difference.”

Lines of traffic began forming well before the scheduled 9 a.m. start and remained heavy past 3 p.m. when all food had been distributed. Cincinnati Police Department’s District 4 helped facilitate traffic at the entrance throughout the day while cars made their way through the Academy parking lot to pick up their food.

“The Thanksgiving event has become a tradition, and we enjoy making our facility available for this important purpose,” Reds executive director Charley Frank said. “Our goal when we opened in 2014 was to authentically and consistently engage with Roselawn, Bond Hill and the surrounding community. The Thanksgiving food distribution is an important part of that strategy. It’s sobering to come face to face with the profound need in our community but a privilege to be able to brighten the holidays for many of our neighbors.”

Even with temperatures hovering below freezing throughout the day, there was a palpable and positive energy coursing through the air. Music was on full blast as cars made their way to the food stations. Gapper, one of the four beloved Reds mascots, helped load vehicles and spread some holiday cheer. While waiting in line, customers struck up conversations with volunteers about everything from the weather and sports to the holidays and what food they were looking forward to most. They also continually expressed their gratitude, further emphasizing the importance of this event to so many residents in the community.

Tiffany Brooks, who stepped into a role with Freestore as soon as she moved to Cincinnati this past July, was one of the many volunteers on Thursday helping to cultivate the festive atmosphere while she helped direct cars through the parking lot.

“When you are doing something that’s bigger than yourself and you are excited about what you do, I believe that energy transfers to others,” Brooks said. “There are folks out here going through all kinds of stuff. But if they see you having a good time, they might forget about whatever it is that brought them here, and then that energy continues to rub off on other folks.

"And before you know it, everyone coming through here has had a decent day, because we all chose to be positive vs. being cold or finding a reason to complain.”

Reiber couldn’t help but notice the same thing while assisting the volunteers.

“There’s a lot of energy out here,” he said. You’ve got the Reds here, Freestore Foodbank and great volunteers. It’s neighbors helping neighbors, and that’s really what we’re all about.”

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