Tameka Kimble stood in line for nearly 90 minutes Tuesday afternoon at Booker T. Washington High to receive one of the 500 Thanksgiving food baskets purchased by Memphis Grizzlies star Zach Randolph.
She didn’t even think of complaining during what seemed to be a long wait, considering her prayers for the holiday were about to be answered.
“It felt like an hour,” Kimble, who has two children who attend Washington, said with a big smile. “It was worth it. I feel like they didn’t have to do it, but they did.”
Hundreds of South Memphis residents turned out in BTW’s gymnasium to receive food baskets as part of the Grizzlies’ Season of Giving, which began Nov. 15 and runs through the week leading to Christmas. For Randolph, Tuesday marked the third time in less than a week the 12-year veteran power forward has reached out to poverty-stricken communities for the holidays.
A week ago, Randolph purchased food baskets for families of 450 students at Carver High, which is in close proximity of BTW. Then, on Sunday, hours after the Grizzlies’ road game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Randolph visited his native hometown of Marion, Ind., where he gave away 500 more baskets. Tuesday was more of the same as 500 baskets were removed from a 54-foot trailer outside the school and covered about a third of the floor in BTW’s gym.
One by one, students and local residents were given baskets that included a turkey, ham, chicken, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, green beans, and brownie mix, among other things.
“This community has embraced me and I have embraced this community back,” said Randolph who, in between handing out baskets, posed for photos and signed autographs with fans. “I mean, it’s a perfect fit. I don’t do it for the cameras and the attention. I do it from the heart.”
Randolph, in fact, said his latest acts of benevolence overshadowed what he has been a somewhat challenging week for the Grizzlies’ second-leading scorer and the NBA’s leader in double-doubles.
Earlier on Monday, league officials fined Randolph $25,000 for confronting Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins in the locker room area at Chesapeake Arena following their ejections in the closing minutes of the Grizzlies versus Thunder game Nov. 14. Later that evening, Memphis witnessed its eight-game undefeated streak end in a 97-92 loss to the Denver Nuggets in FedExForum.
“It’s basketball and emotions fly and it’s a part of the game,” Randolph said of the fine. “Hopefully, I can try and get some of my money back. But you live and you learn.”
Still, Randolph deemed it an obligation to provide help to the less-fortunate in a Memphis-area neighborhood that is reminiscent of his hometown, largely because he knows what it’s like to be raised in an impoverished household.
“I was in situations where I didn’t have a lot coming up in a single parent home,” said Randolph who, in April 2011, signed a four-year extension with the Grizzlies worth $71 million ($61 million guaranteed). “So I can relate to these people and they can relate to me. So it’s an understanding.”
Randolph, who, two years ago, received the NBA Cares Community Assist Award, has become a fixture for providing assistance to downtrodden communities throughout the Bluff City.
In March, Randolph donated $20,000 for the second consecutive year to Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA) to cover utility expenses for as many as 100 homes throughout the Memphis. Last year, he was presented with the “Community Hero” award during a banquet by Memphis Light Gas And Water President and chief executive officer Jerry R. Collins, Jr.
Washington principal Alisha Kiner, whose school made national headlines in May 2011 when President Obama spoke to its graduating seniors after the school won the White House’s Race to the Top Commencement Challenge, was ecstatic that Randolph offered to aid her 500-plus students for the holidays.
“He just said he wanted to choose BTW (to distribute baskets) and we accepted,” Kiner said. “Some the kids, their parents weren’t able to furnish a huge meal. (Randolph) did it for Carver and that’s great being we are in a high needs area.”
Like Randolph, other Grizzlies also have made holiday rounds throughout the city to offer help to the less fortunate.
Rudy Gay, Memphis’ franchise player, on Wednesday distributed food baskets to approximately 400 Frayser-area families of Frayser High students. Also, on Sunday, Grizzlies forward Quincy Pondexter gave away 400 baskets to a number of his Twitter followers and families of Power Life Academy at New Direction Christian Church during his community giveaway called “Random Acts of Q-Ness.”
“It’s a good thing,” Kimble said as she exited BTW’s gym, barely able to hold her basket filled with food. “I’m glad they didn’t forget where they came from and gave back.”
Even if it meant standing in line for nearly 90 minutes to have her prayers answered.