This has been a bad year, a sad year.

There hasn’t been much to be happy about. Or thankful for.

And then, you have a day like Tuesday at the Buckner International Humanitarian Aid Center.

Bright sun, not a cloud to be found and Mavericks and Buckner International staffers helping to hand out 200 Thanksgiving dinners to people who really need a reason to smile.

And smile, they did. We’re talking ear-to-ear grins, the kind we haven’t seen enough of in 2020.

It was the tipoff event of the Mavericks’ Season of Giving as they pulled off the annual turkey giveaway to needy families despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

And with the NBA season starting in December, it was a wonderful time to connect with the community in east Dallas. Partnering with Kroger, the official grocery store of the Mavericks, members of the Mavericks – including the ManiAACs and mascots Champ and Mavs Man, helped pack the food items in bags and put the turkeys on carts so that people in the drive through line could get the food themselves to promote social distancing.

And everybody was wearing masks.

“It’s a blast,” said Cedric Ceballos, who joined Erick Strickland as former Maverick players on hand for the event. “(Owner) Mark Cuban and (CEO) Cynt Marshall have put together a great program of great community involvement with their employees and players to help give back.

“Especially with the pandemic going on, this just shows how much they care and how much they want to put smiles on people’s faces. Whether or not we have fans (this season) in the arena or not, they’ll still be Mavs fans for life because of little things like this that helped them out so much.”

It was more than a little thing for the 200 families who began lining up at the Buckner distribution center at noon. The first turkey dinner was handed out at 3:20 Tuesday afternoon.

“I’d have to say, it’s a blessing because a lot of times, nowadays, things are not going quite our way,” said C.T. Loucks, who lives in Pleasant Grove near Buckner International and was one of the first in line for the turkey handout. “But God is good. I appreciate Buckner and the Mavs.”

The Mavs’ Turkey Giveaway has been an annual event for nearly a decade and is part of the Season of Giving, which is an NBA-wide initiative to serve the community during the holiday season.

The families received a frozen turkey, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes, stuffing, marshmallows, jellied cranberry, yams, cake mix, frosting and reusable bags from Kroger.

Buckner International is a global faith-based ministry dedicated to transforming and restoring lives of vulnerable kids, families and seniors.

The COVID-19 crisis has made the work at Buckner even more critical than usual. The facility has dispersed more than 180 tons of food in Texas and another 180 tons internationally through various programs, said Steve Watson, director of aid and assistance for Buckner International.

Watson said that people who have the means to donate have been very generous throughout the pandemic.

He also said that the roles have changed for some other families that are not as fortunate.

“This year, it’s been even worse because we have people who weren’t in poverty who now are out of a job looking for where they’re next meal is coming from,” Watson said. “So to be able to provide that Thanksgiving dinner for them is just a huge blessing. We love the partnership with the Mavs and Kroger.

“Obviously there’s a lot of people who typically give that can’t this year. And they’re on the receiving end now. We’ve had some people come through here that have volunteered before that say: I’ve lost my job, can I come get in line. We typically we have certain zip codes we serve. For this year, we just opened it up. Just come and we’ll serve everybody as long as we have food and hand sanitizer and things like that.”

And on a glorious Tuesday in November, it was the kind of scene that put a smile on a lot of people’s faces as the Mavericks, Kroger and Buckner International joined forces to help the less forgunate.

“It’s definitely more important now because some people are struggling with income situations, loss of jobs – it’s so much burden,” said Strickland, who played for the Mavericks in the ‘90s, the same time Ceballos was with the team. “To be able to know that during the holiday season that they have something they can share with their family and that the Mavs are able to provide that, it’s a joyous occasion to put a smile on their faces.”

Twitter: @ESefko

Share and comment

More Mavs News