This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting millions across the city, Allen knew he had to step up to continue his Thanksgiving tradition.
In the weeks leading up to the event, Allen and City Harvest decided it wouldn’t be possible to replicate the in-person event, opting instead to hold a video call between the Nets center and kids from the Children of Promise program.
Children of Promise is an after-school program in Brooklyn for students who have a parent who is incarcerated. With the additional economic impacts of the pandemic, Allen knew how important it was to give back.
“I can’t imagine not being able to see one, if not both of my parents,” he said. “So for me, being able to help the kids, bring smiles to their faces and bring joy to their lives, that has brought me a lot of joy.”
A main feature of Jarrett’s annual event is math lessons centered around budgeting for grocery shopping. The Nets big man helped kids through math questions related to budgeting, providing them with sample grocery lists, calculators, and a $100 Key Food gift card for Thanksgiving and holiday grocery shopping.
Unlike the past three years, Allen and the group of students were not able to hold the event in a grocery store. Instead, the video call forced some creativity to help teach the lessons on shopping.
“It was definitely different and kind of a blow with not being able to be there with them, but we were still able to interact with them and were able to see some old and new faces,” said Allen.
“We had to almost pretend we were at the store on the Zoom call,” he added. “The Children of Promise and the proctors over there handled it amazingly. They helped the kids every step of the way. It was almost like we were at the grocery store again.”
Jarrett wasn’t the only Net helping feed the community, with superstar guard Kyrie Irving getting in on the action. Irving partnered with the Kai Family Foundation, Fresh Direct, City Harvest, and other local programs to dish out 700 Thanksgiving turkeys, side dishes, and protective equipment in the Bronx.
BSE Global, managing company of the Nets and Barclays Center, also distributed 1,500 pre-made meals to families in Brooklyn, helping out the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance’s food drive.
The giving spirit was shared across town, as Knicks first-round draft pick Obi Toppin looked to immediately give back. The eighth-overall pick was teary eyed upon hearing his name on Draft Day, thanking the Knicks for the chance to return home to play on the big stage.
Even before playing his first game as a pro, the Brooklyn native teamed up with Black Veterans for Social Justice to distribute food to families in the borough where he was raised.
“I’m from New York,” answered Topin proudly when asked why it was important for him to put on his new team’s jersey. “Me repping my city is amazing. A lot of people pray to be in this position and I’m not going to take that for granted, I promise you that.”
New York City remains one of the hardest-hit cities in the world by the coronavirus, with cases once more on the rise. With many out of work and struggling, New York City residents made over 12 million trips to food pantries in the city over the past eight months, 36 percent higher than during that same time span last year.
The NBA has a tradition of involvement in their communities, with countless stars and players passing out food and giving back to the places that they hold close to their hearts. Each year, new faces join old ones as players, fans, and residents share a priceless moment filled with caring and gratitude.