NBA stars, Latter-day Saints serve together at the Bishops’ Storehouse
It isn't every day you see Elder Ronald A. Rasband, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, chatting with Buddy Hield, a basketball player for the Indiana Pacers, as they put together boxes of food donations in matching T-shirts.
The NBA Cares All-Star Day of Service brought them together on Friday, along with multiple big NBA stars, families, missionaries and leaders from the Church of Jesus Christ to fill boxes of food at the Bishops' Central Storehouse.
Elder Rasband, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said he applauds what the NBA is doing through NBA Cares, showing the association's desire to help local families and children.
"That happens to be what our objective is, too; so (we have) two very good organizations — the church and the NBA — working together today to bless all of God's children," he said.
Elder Rasband said he was talking to Hield about what an apostle is, and Hield was very nice. He said service is a good way to share a belief in Christ, without the need for words.
"This is just what we do, so it's an amazing example of Christlike caring," he said.
Hield is from the Bahamas and he said he has participated in similar service projects multiple times, especially after hurricanes and national disasters, and recognizes that food can help remove pressure for families.
"It goes a long way … stuff like this is a blessing," he said.
Neal Peterson, operations manager of the Utah bishops' storehouse locations, said the groups are filing up five semitrailers with food during the event, which means 6,720 boxes and food for about 27,000 people, or as he said "friends in need," for three to four days.
He said it takes an incredible amount of hours to fill that many boxes, but a few hours into the project they were ahead of schedule. Peterson said the NBA wanted to make a lasting effect with this food and is shipping it to five local pantries in Utah.
Todd Jacobson, with the NBA, said its mission is to inspire and connect people through the power of basketball — and it fulfills that mission through service and philanthropy. He said over $3 million is going back to the community over the NBA All-Star Week in addition to hours spent serving here and in other places.
"That's what it's all about: How can we help and do more, and how do we use the NBA as an opportunity to help lift up others?" Jacobson said.
He said NBA players know their time is the most valuable commodity, and they lead the way in service.
Ashley Smith, co-owner of the Utah Jazz with her husband, Ryan Smith, said Utah is a generous state and she is happy to be able to share that aspect of Utah with the NBA. Smith said this week has been fun to show Utah's beauty and culture to the thousands of people coming to the state.
"I want everybody to know how great (Utah) is, I want them to feel what I feel," Smith said.
She said she and her husband are involved with the Utah Jazz so they have a platform to serve, and if they have a chance to involve their children in the service, they bring them, too, because "that's who we are."
Smith said she enjoyed seeing the NBA offer support and leave something behind to help Utah. On Thursday, she went to Lincoln Elementary where the NBA had redone a basketball court and created a science, technology, engineering and math center, and on Friday her family saw the NBA give thousands of hours of service.
"It's just really cool to me that it matters to the NBA. It makes me proud to be part of that organization," Smith said.
Gov. Spencer Cox said this day of service is special, and that you could feel the energy at the bishops' storehouse.
"We've been preparing for the world, and now the world is giving back to Utah," Cox said.
Cox said Utah leads the nation in charitable giving, and organizing service projects for thousands of people over two days was easy.
"Utahns are doing this every day, but it's fun to rub shoulders with people outside of Utah and do it together. It brings people together," he said.
Deron Williams, who played with the Utah Jazz between 2005 and 2011, said it was great to be in Utah and to have the All-Star game back in the state after 30 years.
He said service has always been one of his favorite things to do during the NBA All-Star Weekend, being able to give back to communities that support the players. One of his first service projects with the NBA was helping rebuild homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
"(It) honestly was really amazing and fun to be a part of, and put a lot of things in perspective," Williams said.
He brought some of his family members with him to the bishops' storehouse so they could be a part of the service as well.
"It's amazing what they're doing with this facility … how many families this feeds, and this is just one warehouse of many," he said.
Williams was part of a tour of the facility that was led by Sharon Eubank, director of Latter-day Saint Charities. She said gathering all different people to participate in the service shows compassion for all people, regardless of race or faith.
"People love the NBA; they have the ability to gather and convene people around an issue. And then it's just been so fun to share some of the values that we have because they believe in excellence and so do we. We want to give the poor our very best," Eubank said.
She said the people on the tour were surprised by the scale of the bishop's storehouse — 80 trucks go out each day from the Bishops' Central Storehouse to other storehouses and the food bank, feeding many people.
Eubank said she was working on the food line next to a few people from New York who knew Utah mainly for its ski slopes, and through this project, she has been able to share the compassion Utah is known for.
Elder Kevin W. Pearson, general authority seventy in the Church of Jesus Christ, who is assigned to oversee the Utah area, said those who work at the storehouse have been looking forward to the project for months and are delighted the NBA has a humanitarian arm that mirrors church values.
"It's a great project, it's going to help a lot of people. We're excited about that," he said.
He said it was fun to learn about the NBA's values — excellence and dignity — and said those values fit well with the church's values and the bishops' storehouse. He also commented on the light he saw in NBA representatives' eyes as they began to understand how large the humanitarian efforts of the church are.