CHARLOTTE – The daily meals provided year-round by the Men's Shelter of Charlotte means a great deal to the hundreds of homeless men in need.
Seeing several Carolina Panthers behind the counter serving food and wishing them a happy Thanksgiving made Tuesday's lunch even more meaningful.
"It means so much to the people that we serve to know that the community cares, the Panthers in particular," executive director Carson Dean said. "It really shows our guys that there is a true community spirit wanting to help them make the changes in their lives."
Panthers rookies Luke Kuechly, Josh Norman, Frank Alexander, Amini Silatolu and D.J. Campbell participated in the team's fifth annual Giving Thanks event in Uptown Charlotte on Tuesday.
"We love those guys," said shelter volunteer Sylvester Huff, proudly sporting a Panthers jersey and cap. "When they come it uplifts the guys. We like to see them up close and personal like that. Just seeing them and talking to them, that's great. It's another morale boost."
US Foods donated food for 400 meals, and Delaware North – Bank of America Stadium's food and beverage company – prepared and delivered the meals.
The rookies prepared plates topped with turkey, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, salad, cranberry sauce, bread rolls and a slice of cake for dessert.
Kuechly and Norman, with help from Sir Purr, alternated handing out the plates of food, and the TopCats distributed glasses of sweet tea.
"We do have a lot. We are very fortunate," Norman said. "These guys here have little. With the time that we do have, we try to give back and just to do this is amazing."
Dean was delighted to see the Panthers rookies devote time to helping the homeless community and said their presence helps encourage others to lend a hand.
"There's so much talk these days about young folks just not engaged and not involved, and that's absolutely not true," Dean said. "We have the rookie players here, and they are really showing the young citizens in our community that if they can take time out, it's something that anybody can do.
"After an event like this we will have people contact us and say, 'Hey, I saw the Panthers were down there, is there something I can do to help?'"