Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker partners with The Salvation Army to tackle hunger

By: Janeen Johnally

More than 700 people celebrated the holidays early at the Jameel McClain 53 Families Foundation Thanksgiving Dinner, a partnership of the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker and The Salvation Army serving needy residents of Baltimore, Maryland.

A total of 132 families – 314 adults and 425 children, 100 more than last year and the largest attendance in the event’s nine year history – assembled at the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore on Monday, Nov. 19, to be served a Thanksgiving feast by more than 70 volunteers.

McClain and his wife hosted the community dinner, and they brought along more than 20 present and former Ravens including Morgan Cox, Marshal Yanda and Jacoby Jones to sign autographs and pose for pictures.

All of the families are recipients of The Salvation Army of Central Maryland’s Angel Tree program. Each took home a gift box of holiday fixings to prepare on Thanksgiving Day.

For these people, especially the children, interacting with their home football team on a personal level at a catered event is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“To invite me to a place like this means the world to me, because I’ve never been invited to a place where you can have fellowship with other people in the same situation as you,” said Wanda Robinson, a mother of three whose family has benefited from Angel Tree for the past three years.

When McClain was a child, his mother and three siblings turned to The Salvation Army for food and shelter. Today, his 53 Families Foundation assists youth in these basic needs to help promote self-esteem to produce positive life results.

Since the foundation’s inception, thousands of individuals have received resources including clothing, meals and financial support. Its motto, “Adversity Won’t Stop Me,” is a direct reflection on the foundation, McClain and the entire 53 Families family.

Janeen Johnally is communications director of The Salvation Army of Central Maryland.