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New Orleans—New Orleans Hornets star point guard Chris Paul and Smithfield Foods formed a special team Thanksgiving Day to provide more than 1,000 turkey dinners to needy families living in New Orleans and Winston-Salem.
The six-foot two, 175-lb. guard said that he came up with the idea to help the needy at Rookie camp. He saw it as a way to feed hungry families at Thanksgiving by uniting the sports community and their supportive fans. He said that it is hard for the Hornets team to beat last year’s record on the court, but that by helping the needy they can step up to another level, “We’re trying to make our own footprint in the sand.”
Smithfield Foods was contacted through its Greensboro public relations firm about a week before Thanksgiving by Paul’s philanthropic CP3 Foundation, which bears his initials. The 2006 NBA “Rookie of the Year” wanted to know if Smithfield would like to partner with the foundation by making a donation of turkeys to needy families in New Orleans and Winston-Salem. Jim Patterson, CEO of Patterson Partners, Inc., called his public relations client in Tar Heel.
“The public generally doesn’t know about the behind-the-scenes goodwill that Smithfield engages in,” Patterson said. “When Ernie Pitt, the publisher of the Winston-Salem Chronicle and someone who is acquainted with Smithfield’s community work, called me to find out if Smithfield would like to get involved, I felt confident that the folks at Smithfield would pitch in.”
Smithfield responded in kind, dispatching two truckloads of food filled with more than 14,000 lbs. of Butterball turkeys and pork products from its North Carolina plants. More than 1,000 food insecure families benefited from the company’s quick actions.
“Smithfield’s community initiatives are assisting education and alleviating hunger, when I heard about the need, it was an easy decision,” said Smithfield president Joseph W. Luter IV. “Besides, my father, Joseph W. Luter III, is a Wake Forest alumni and served on the board of trustees, to partner with Chris Paul in such a worthwhile effort was a natural fit.”
In New Orleans, with an assist from four of Paul’s teammates, support from volunteers, the Hornets organization, and Chris’s mother, Robin, who helped coordinate the event, Thanksgiving Day in the “Big Easy” was made a whole lot easier for more than 200 needy families who received the 18-to 22-pound frozen turkeys with all the trimmings and desert a few days before the holiday.
Hornets players Tyson Chandler, David West, Bobby Jackson, and Jannero Pargo joined Paul in distributing the food at a local YMCA.
The recipients were visibly grateful for the outpouring of food and support, many of whom are still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
“I’m glad somebody is out here to see it, reap the benefits of it,” said New Orleans resident Martha Moulton. “Because we need it, we really need it. The seniors need it.”
“Life is nothing but a hope….you have to have something to hold on to. You can’t go through life empty,” said food recipient Lillie Wilfred.
Hornets center Tyson Chandler said the Thanksgiving meals are a way to give back to the fans.
“I think this is the best way to get to know them person to person,” he said. “A lot of times it is just basketball players and fans, but when you’re here, it’s family and family, person to person.”
Robin Paul said that she was proud of how the players pitched in to help those less fortunate.
“I’m just blessed in the way the players have stepped up to bless those whose lives may not be going the way they wanted. We just want them to know that we’re here for them. If we can do just a little bit to ease their burden, that’s what counts,” Robin Paul said.
As an added show of their appreciation, the Hornets organization passed out free game tickets for their Wednesday night contest against the Pacers.
Meanwhile in Winston-Salem, high school basketball players from Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy assisted organizers and volunteers at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in helping to feed those in need. Citing the Biblical story of the little boy who had fives loaves of bread and two fish that Jesus used to feed five thousand, Thanksgiving Day food drive coordinator John Allen said they helped feed more than 800 families and individuals who were needy, homeless, or shut-ins.
Allen said this is the ninth year that members of the church have served the community on Thanksgiving Day and that the outreach just keeps growing bigger every year. The church is a partner with the Winston-Salem Housing Authority who furnished the group with a long list of names from people who signed up to receive a Thanksgiving meal.
“We knew there was a huge need out in the community because we’ve been getting so many requests from individuals, organizations, and other churches who know of our outreach. When we were contacted by Chris’s foundation and asked if we could use a large load of turkeys, that was an answer to prayer,” Allen said.
The twenty-two year old has ties to North Carolina. He was raised in Lewisville, a small town near Winston-Salem, where he was a stand-out high school basketball player at West Forsyth High School, earning him a full scholarship to Wake Forest University. As the Demon Deacon’s star point guard, he earned the Atlantic Coast Conference “Rookie of the Year” award. He was also named third team All-ACC after leading the team in assists (183) and steals (84) and several other categories. He was named the 2004-05 ACC Preseason Player of the Year and Associated Press Preseason National Player of the Year, and was a consensus first-team All-American in 2005. At the end of his second season at Wake, he announced his eligibility and was fourth pick in the 2005 NBA draft. In 2006, Paul led the count for the NBA’s “Rookie of the Year” award, receiving all but one of the 125 first-place votes from a panel of media members from across the United States and Canada.
Chris and his family created the CP3 Foundation in partnership with the Winston-Salem Foundation to support worthy causes. Paul’s mother, Robin Paul of Winston-Salem, helps him manage the charitable foundation which not only helps food insecure families but provides scholarships as well.
The Nathaniel Jones Scholarship Fund was established at Wake Forest University in memory of Chris’s late grandfather who was tragically murdered when Chris was a senior in high school.
***image7***In September 2006, Chris won the NBA’s Community Assist Award, which secured an additional $5,000 for the CP3 Foundation. The award acknowledges Chris’s emphasis on community involvement and service, not just in Winston-Salem, but also his donation of food baskets and bikes for underprivileged children in Oklahoma City and New Orleans.
Smithfield Foods has a long history of giving back to the community. In 2006, 2.5 million lbs. of food were given to food banks and organizations which help food insecure families. After Hurricane Katrina, the Fortune 500 company sent truckloads of food products to help those in emergency need. The Smithfield-Luter Foundation has contributed more than $10 million to education and research initiatives. Since 2002, the children and grandchildren of Smithfield employees have received more than $800,000 in scholarships.