Eagles players, front-office staff, and even SWOOP teamed up with local volunteers to put together "Eaglesgiving" at the Feast of Justice in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia on Monday.
With the help of ACME and Santander, the Eagles distributed Thanksgiving meals to more than 200 families in the community. Mack Hollins, Jordan Mailata, D.J. Alexander, and Matt Pryor took time on the team's off day to have fun and help those in need.
"I think that's a byproduct of who they are along with us trying to be out in the community every day on a regular basis," president Don Smolenski said. "The guys that are here today, along with all of our guys, care about the community. They're engaged. They're having fun, and for them, it's a way to say thanks for all the support that they get."
When residents walked into the doors of the Feast of Justice, they were greeted by the smiling faces of Mailata and Pryor who directed them forward. Inside the building, SWOOP offered everyone hugs and danced to upbeat music.
Hollins manned the first station with volunteers distributing tote bags filled with non-perishable food items. Alexander then helped give out other bags of food including a choice of Thanksgiving pie. Finally, Pryor and Mailata presented the families fresh vegetables and turkeys. Each of the players then helped carry out the bags of food for those who needed it.
"I think for me, I find it rewarding," Mailata said. "It's a big chance to give back to the community. Growing up, I've always had somebody else giving back to my family and me, so it's just a great opportunity to do the same and pay it forward."
In between the sorting and bagging, players, along with Eagles Cheerleaders and SWOOP, took pictures and interacted with the members of the community. Seeing firsthand the needs of many families right nearby put things in perspective, especially a day after a tough loss in New Orleans.
"I think I've always seen the bigger picture even when the season's not going well," Hollins said. "Whether it's a good game, bad game, good season, bad season, I always want to give back to the community. There's a lot of people who are in worse situations than you. Winning a game is only so big.
"Thanksgiving is such an important time to be with family or friends or whoever you can be around and being able to help out with that I think is awesome."
The Eagles teamed up with ACME, which helped provide the food given out, as well as Santander to organize the resources necessary for the event. Volunteers from the Eagles and Santander were on hand to distribute the meals hours after ACME volunteers delivered truckloads of food.
Maria Veltre, head of digital, innovation, and payments strategy at Santander, oversaw the event and said she was proud to be able to team up with the Eagles. She was especially pleased with how down-to-earth the players were and how much time they took to interact with everyone.
"I think we're both organizations that care about the community, that know where our roots are, and know that these are important things to do not because we want cameras or people to pay attention but just because it's the right thing to do," Veltre said.
Laura Wall, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, worked with the Eagles to help select the Feast of Justice for the 2018 "Eaglesgiving" event. She works with plenty of organizations to combat hunger and was impressed with how much the Eagles put into the event.
"I know people say this all the time, but the Eagles really are community-minded. They really are. They walk the walk," Wall said. "So, when people who are standing outside in the cold literally for hours come in and see that SWOOP is here and the players are greeting them at the door and bringing food to their cars, that's incredible. It really makes a big difference."
The holidays are an important time to give thanks and to think about others who are less fortunate. Events like "Eaglesgiving" ensure that everyone in the Philadelphia region can enjoy the holiday and can focus on spending time with family instead of worrying about whether or not they will have food.
Wall said that these events show that anyone can make a difference. She also stressed the importance of remembering those who are less fortunate at all times, especially once the holidays are over.
"One of the things that is important to remember is that people will still be hungry in January and February," Wall said. "So, give to your local food pantry in the winter and the summer because that's when donations tend to go down, but the need continues. So, don't think that hunger takes a vacation because it doesn't."
The Eagles recently teamed up with Santander Bank to provide families with Thanksgiving meals as part of "Santander's Eaglesgiving."