The holidays tend to bring out the best in people, and while the Patriots Foundation and those in the organization consciously find ways to support those in the New England community, around Thanksgiving, those efforts are turned up a notch.
Between the Patriots Foundation's events -- both new and traditional -- and Patriots players taking it upon themselves to give back, the last week has been full of special moments of kindness and giving.
Since the Kraft family bought the New England Patriots 26 years ago, they have been hosting an annual "Thanksgiving in a Basket" event in partnership with Morgan Memorial Goodwill in Boston. On Nov. 26, that tradition continued with Robert Kraft, Andre Tippett, David Andrews, Jonathan Jones, Shilique Calhoun and more current and former Patriots players, who carried basket after basket of Thanksgiving supplies to local families.
About 220 families walked away with everything they could need for Thanksgiving dinner, including products donated by Dunkin' and Ocean Spray, and they were escorted tot heir
"These baskets are getting heavier and heavier," Mr. Kraft said.
Though the Patriots Foundation hosts countless events throughout the year, this one in particular means a great deal to the organization. Mr. Kraft said his late wife Myra always loved handing out Thanksgiving meals and appreciated the sense of community. This tradition is so woven in to the fabric of the organization.
"It's something that really is kind of instilled here," Andrews said. "When you first get here as a rookie, [you learn] giving back to the community is really important besides football. It's kind of a different perspective. We do work a lot at football and work really hard, but we also do a great job of trying to give back to the community. All these people support us, so it's the least we could do."
The day before the annual Thanksgiving in a Basket event, the Patriots Foundation hosted another Thanksgiving-giveaway at Gillette Stadium. In partnership with Shaw's, the Patriots Foundation supplied an additional 500 families with everything they would need for Thursday. Joe Thuney, Ted Karras, Isaiah Wynn, Chase Winovich Justin Bethel and more all volunteered their time delivering bags of food to cars.
Justin Bethel may be new to New England, but that didn't stop him from throwing himself into his new community. On Nov. 23, Bethel handed out turkeys of his own at local Boys and Girls Clubs, providing meals for those who may need it. The Turkey Drive Rally delivered 750 free turkeys to Boys and Girls Clubs in Lawrence, Roxbury, Dorchester and Chelsea.
Spending his Saturday was one way to get to know his new region, but more than that, Bethel said it was "on his heart" to give back to the community that's already welcomed him warmly.
"This is my first time doing it. As I've been getting older and I've been in the league for a while, I've been really wanting to make sure I use this platform to the utmost that I can and do all the things I know I can and touch all the people's lives that I know I can touch while I still have this opportunity," he said.
This effort to reach those in need did not go unappreciated either. Executive Director of the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club Markus Fischer said many of the families the club works with are in need and a day like that is a difference maker.
"We've been serving quite a number of kids that are living in poverty, and through having access to a turkey for Thanksgiving, that might be the difference between having a Thanksgiving dinner or not," he said.
For the ninth year overall and their second since coming to New England, Lawrence and Andrea Guy hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for kids and their families at Orchard Gardens Boys and Girls Club. Lawrence and his teammates, including Phillip Dorsett, Danny Shelton, Kyle Van Noy and Duron Harmon, among others, served up dinner to about 400 families.
In the club's gymnasium, music blasted as kids, families and friends shared a meal. It was a celebration and a night to remember, which Andrea said was exactly the point.
In addition to dinner, those in attendance had a chance to win raffle prizes and were also given supplies to cook a meal of their own with their families.
"You put your roots in the community, and when you put your roots in the community, this is the outcome," he said. "You look around and we have a great turnout of people. This is really what it’s truly about. This game is about the community and the players and you show our support for them as they show their support for us."
Josh Kraft, who serves as the Nicholas President and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, said that an event like this drives home the lessons they try to drive home for the kids they work with.
"It’s great because one of the things we talk about at the Boys and Girls Club is it’s all about access, access to opportunity. Access to opportunity to meet players, but really, they see players giving back, they see them building a sense of community and having that sense of community truly is a great opportunity for the kids and families we serve. Just makes our community stronger."
For Lawrence and Andrea, this point was made crystal clear at Kyle Van Noy's recent fundraiser for his Van Noy Valor Foundation. When they arrived, a man working the valet stopped them before they went in.
"[He] was at the giveaway last year, and he said, 'You don't understand what that turkey did for my family. We were in a rough time, and it truly brought us together. We were able to share that with the people around us,'" Lawrence recalled. "That's what it's truly about to hear those stories."
Though this time of year is full of reminders to give back, Lawrence wanted to leave Patriots fans with a sentiment that has no expiration date.
"The only thing I’d like to add on is truly, an act of kindness is something that everybody should do and give. During this time, please show some kindness to somebody who might need it," he said.
You can check out more photos from the Patriots Foundation's Thanksgiving in a Basket event below.
For the 26th consecutive year, the Patriots teamed up with Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries to provide 220 complete Thanksgiving meals to families in need at the Goodwill headquarters in Boston on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Robert Kraft, Patriots alumni and players, including Andre Tippett, David Andrews, Jonathan Jones and Adam Butler, among others, personally delivered the baskets.