Nyack Athletes in the Kitchen for Community Thanksgiving Dinner

On Sunday, the only “day off” during playing season, you would usually find the 13 members of Nyack’s Men’s Basketball team occupied with evening study hall, catching up on rest or socializing with friends. But this is the Sunday before Thanksgiving holiday and most of the dorms have emptied as students are homeward bound for the holiday. More than any other weekend, just the thought of a home-cooked meal this week is probably like an early Christmas present, especially for the four freshmen on the team in their first semester away from family.

But on this Sunday evening, our Nyack Warriors volunteered time for community service. Carl Balthazar, Elijah Farley, Junior Graham, Rashard Lewis, Tahj Malone, Jah-Meer McDuffie, Deandre Osuigwe, Malik Pouncy, Imran Ritchie, Ezekiel Snowden, Curtis Thompson, Calvin Willis and Shawn Witherspoon along with Assistant Coach Stephen Howard gathered at Living Christ Church in downtown Nyack.

Nyack’s Manager of Special Events in the Office of College Relations, Mrs. Nancy Gates (pictured with the team), arranged for the team to prepare stuffing for a community meal that her home church will serve to homeless and low-income families at their Fifth Annual Thanksgiving Day Dinner.  In two seatings, from noon until 2:00 PM and from 3:00-5:00 PM, this dinner is offered at no cost by Living Christ Church as an "experience of giving thanks in community."

An excellent chef accustomed to cooking for crowds and also the mother of five sons, Mrs. Gates was quite at home guiding the assembly line of young men chopping onions, celery and parsley; sautéing the vegetables, and hand-mixing the combined ingredients. This display of camaraderie and compassion was a perfect segue into the season of charitable giving.

Leadership development is entrenched in the guidance provided by Head Men’s Basketball Coach Jason Crafton. In the spirit of servant leadership, the team enthusiastically offered their down time for the good of those less fortunate than themselves.

“It was a pleasure to give back to the community. I didn’t realize that you can help so many people by chipping in together as a team to help prepare dinner for Thanksgiving,” commented senior Imran Ritchie from Uniondale, NY.

Accustomed to the importance of team effort, Shawn Witherspoon, a junior from Philadelphia, PA observed, “It was great for the team to strengthen our relationship by bonding off the court while also making someone else's Thanksgiving better by helping to prepare the food.”

At this time of year, celebrating the holidays with family and friends can be a blessing easily taken for granted; but the importance of community is not overlooked by senior Rashard Lewis from Chesterfield, VA, who remarked, “Last night was special. We had a chance to take a step back and not think about ourselves. We prepared food for many people in need on a special holiday like Thanksgiving. That church is doing something great for the community by giving people a place to go and to enjoy a family atmosphere!”