As the DART blue line train whizzed by just outside the door to the Dallas Life shelter facility, Mavericks’ guard Jalen Brunson had only one question for hundreds of homeless men, women and especially children.
“Sausage, pepperoni or cheese?” he asked to each and every individual as they went through Brunson’s serving line.
Brunson spent Tuesday evening dishing out slices of pizza to folks in need of a good meal and a place to stay as the Mavericks partnered with Pizza Hut to donate time and food for the less fortunate to tip off the NBA Cares’ Season of Giving.
More than 60,000 pizzas were donated by Pizza Hut to various locations nationwide. Brunson brought some helpers with him to the near southside Dallas Life shelter.
Assistant athletic trainer Heather Mau, assistant strength and conditioning coach Meg Dodge, members of the Mavs ManiAACs and mascot Champ all tagged along to entertain and dish out food for the guests.
“This means a bit of normalcy for the people here,” said Gracie Loveridge, director of public and donor relations for Dallas Life. “Our folks don’t have the privilege of buying a ticket to a game. So this is a way for them to connect.”
The Mavericks are involved in numerous events to help celebrate the NBA’s Season of Giving. On Thursday, they will be at Buckner International giving away 250 Thanksgiving meals to needy families.
On Tuesday, it was pizza day.
And who doesn’t love pizza?
“I do,” Brunson said. “I don’t get to eat it very often, but once in a while, I’ll indulge in a slice.
“Mostly, it’s just great to be here. The folks here get to have some good pizza and hopefully get to smile a little. I know it puts a smile on my face to do this.”
Dallas Live has 100,000 square feet of space and can house up to 500 men, women, children, seniors, families and anybody with special needs in private rooms and dorm-style facilities.
The building on Cadiz near the Cedars DART station is in the midst of a 14-month, $9.5-million renovation.
The pizzas were a huge hit. And it truly was a partnership between Pizza Hut, the Mavs and Dallas Life that made it possible.
“I grew up not having a guaranteed meal,” said Tabbassum Mumtaz, CEO of Ampex Brands, which has some 500 franchises nationwide including Pizza Hut, KFC and other stores. “So this is important to me to help people who don’t know where their next meal might come from. We’ll give 6,000 pizzas today alone and all our stores combined will give out 150,000 meals during the season of giving.”
The 6,000 pies went to various shelters, as well as first-responders and other emergency workers.
Those are donations to people who come to some of Mumtaz’s stores and don’t have a way to pay for their food.
“We’ve been doing this 11 years and the more you do it, the more you hear thank-yous and God bless yous,” he said. “And the more it makes your heart want to do more.
“We make money every day. But you have to give back or it’s not worth it.”
Tabbassum also is a 22-year Mavericks’ season-ticket holder.
“It’s our team,” he said. “I live in Dallas and we love having these guys come in and help. To have them here brings joy to my team.”