MIAMI — Former Miami Heat star Alonzo ‘Zo’ Mourning and his wife, Tracy, know of the socioeconomic-ills that plague many families living in maligned pockets of the city. The Mournings are aware of the defining line between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ that is rarely, if ever, blurred in communities across South Florida.
The stark reality that exists before and after Thanksgiving Day, according to Zo, “is real.”
A motorcade made up of volunteers and staff members from the Mourning Family Foundation, Honey Shine, FedEx, Overtown Youth Center (OYC) and local media outlets gathered in the parking lot of the O.Y.C. to deliver (Publix-sponsored)Thanksgiving Day meals to families in need of them throughout northwest Miami-Dade.
Held on Nov. 26, the event was the 15th annual ‘33 Thanksgivings’ meal delivery tradition which included ten surprise home visits from the former NBA premiere and his wife, founder and CEO of Honey Shine, an organization that mentors and provides empowerment workshops for young girls.
Zo said the personal aspect of the annual distribution is intentional.
“When I came up with the idea 15 years ago, I wanted my family and me to create this holistic and caring atmosphere. … I wanted to take a hands-on approach to everything we do in the community; to bring more attention to our initiatives.”
He advocates selflessness in giving of time or talent “unto to others,” encouraging those who can to also get involved.
“When I am out and people see me, I always encourage them to give. I let them know it is an important issue; it is something everyone can actively participate in (not just athletes); it helps to uplift our community.”
Deliveries in Little Haiti required that the caravan round tight corners and maneuver through tightly-packed streets with broken asphalt.
Samantha Xavier and her husband, Betu Anthony said they were glad to be recipients of the Thanksgiving dinners. Anthony expressed the satisfaction he will feel seeing his sons Marvin, 11, and Marcus, 9, eat “dinner delivered by Alonzo Mourning,” he said, smiling.
A delivery to the one-bedroom efficiency of Jean Antoine, a widower, and father of two teenage sons resulted in his whispered, “Thank you.”
Looking out of the van’s window, Tracy acknowledged that these families struggle “keeping their heads above water.”
Tasha Burch, of Overtown, acknowledged the hardships of making ends meet to provide the necessities for her children Tanari, 11, and, Lenard, 15. She greeted the Mournings with an embrace.
Tracy admits that distributing meals to families who otherwise would be without a Thanksgiving Day dinner is, for her and Zo, bittersweet.
“The sweet part is that families will have food to enjoy for the holiday; the bitter part is the reminder that everyone is in a tough situation in some way, and seeing the conditions some of these families live in because they don’t have the means to do anything else, that is the tough part,” she said.