Giving back to the community for Thanksgiving, the Rookie Club, sponsored by UnitedHealthcare, and several veteran players prepared and served food at Crossroads Community Ministries in Atlanta.
As the door to Crossroads Community Ministries opened, a line of guests eagerly pushed their way through, attempting to get out of the cool November air and into the warm inviting atmosphere waiting inside.
The arrival of the holidays has brought with it the season of giving thanks and giving back, and the Atlanta Falcons aren't ones to take the notion of community service lightly.
Veterans and members of the Rookie Club, sponsored by UnitedHealthcare, paid a visit to Crossroads on Tuesday morning, where they worked cohesively with volunteers by helping with place settings for each guest, as well as preparing and serving a hot Thanksgiving lunch to more than 300 people.
Among the veterans who made an appearance was defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi. As the only player not wearing a jersey, the 6-foot-2 veteran looked like an ordinary man volunteering his time while handing out knitted Falcons beanies, with a No. 94 pin fastened on each one, to every person who exited Crossroads.
"All I want to do is have these people have a great meal and leave with a smile," Massaquoi said. "I can leave out of here knowing I'm warm, they're warm. It's a good smile."
Massaquoi came to Crossroads with one goal in mind – to commit a random act of kindness.
The success of his action wasn't measured by whether or not the guests knew who he was, but instead by the unconditional love the third-year veteran doled out, and the smiles, handshakes and hugs given in return.
"This time of year, everybody needs a blessing, a little bit of help and a helping hand," Massaquoi said. "It was amazing coming out here, seeing the smiles on these people's faces, even the children, (and) putting hats on their head. I was happy to be part of something like this."
Since the early '90s, the Falcons have been going to Crossroads the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, participating in serving a hot meal. With the formation of the Rookie Club in 2009, however, the tradition changed slightly, allowing the rookies to connect with the community, but the importance of the visit has remained the same.
Workers and volunteers of Crossroads have been providing a place for those without a home and without food to come and have a hot meal as guests in their dining room, Monday through Friday, year round, since 1978. It is a place for them to help build the confidence and self-worth of the roughly 4,000 men, women and children they serve throughout the year.
"I feel completely plugged in when I start talking about Crossroads because I see the difference that we make," said Crossroads volunteer coordinator Sylvia Campbell. "To let these people know that they are loved – unconditional love – is huge in today's society and today's environment, especially the economic environment."