"I used to be in this line a long time ago when things weren't going so well for
my family, so I know what that's like," said Clayton, who was flanked by his
mother, JacQuetta Clayton, at the John Eager Howard Recreation Center on
Brookfield Ave. "Life is about helping people, and I've been very blessed. I've
been very fortunate, getting drafted in the first round and playing in the NFL.
"Whatever you can do to brighten someone's holiday, I'm going to try to do. You put a smile on people's faces and you get a smile in return. My mother raised me to give something back to the community."
JacQuetta Clayton contacted local officials and asked them to identify families in need of assistance. From there, the Claytons partnered with businesses such as Unilever, Frito-Lay, lawyer Steven H. Heisler, The Bakers' Union and Schmidt Bakery to put together a care package of 12-pound turkeys, rolls, potatoes, green beans, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, dessert, soap and laundry detergent.
"When you see these people's faces, you see how it makes their lives better and how appreciative they are of the effort," JacQuetta Clayton said. "Care is the key, and care is what you're going to get with Mark. I'm very proud that he hasn't forgotten where he came from."
Clayton wasn't alone in providing some holiday relief on Tuesday as players distributed 1,200 turkeys in five locations.
Middle linebacker Ray Lewis handed out dinners with all the trimmings to 400 families at Francis M. Wood School in Baltimore.
Safety Ed Reed hosted an event at Booker T. Washington Middle School.
Tight end Darnell Dinkins was at Paul's Place Outreach Center. And the Ravens' running backs were at Owen Brown Interfaith Center.
"We hear a lot of negative connotations about athletes, that they don't care about the community, that they only care about a paycheck, that they're selfish," Baltimore City Councilman Keiffer Mitchell Jr. said. "Mark Clayton has obviously shown that's not the case with all athletes.
"For a rookie, for a No. 1 draft pick, to come out here when the Ravens are having a down year and to take time out and help people, that means a lot. Without this food, it would be a very tough Thanksgiving for these families who are struggling to make ends meet. They are very grateful."
While loading up a cardboard box with cranberry sauce and stuffing, Annette Matthews reflected on what the holiday means to her.
"I just lost my sister, so it's nice to see that someone cares about us," said Matthews, accompanied by her two children. "We're not being forgotten."
Growing up in suburban Grand Prairie, Texas, Clayton wasn't initially enthused when his mother asked him and his brother to pass out food to the homeless at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center in downtown Dallas.
"At first, I just wanted to stay home and watch football, but looking back now it was a great thing," said Clayton, who donated $20,000 to benefit victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that were relocated to Texas. "Now, I'm able to help people on my own. It's about giving back.
"It's about helping people and making sure that they have a nice Thanksgiving. I couldn't imagine not being here and helping people out. It makes them feel good and it makes you feel good."
NOTE: Former Ravens majority owner Art Modell was named to a list of 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That list will be pared down to 15 finalists and voted on Feb. 4 at the Super Bowl in Detroit. Modell, who retains a 1-percent ownership of the team, wasn't a finalist last year.
In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
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