CAMDEN, NJ— It's not every Monday you will find a two-time Super Bowl champion and his family in your living room. So when Philadelphia Eagles Safety Malcolm Jenkins showed up with his parents to Carmen Ortiz’s front door in East Camden bearing gifts, she was a little surprised — and very grateful.
On Monday morning, Jenkins, along with his mother and father, and Mayor Frank Moran, visited the Ortiz household to deliver a basket filled with everything needed to cook a holiday meal, along with toys and gifts for Ortiz’s grandchildren.
The surprise could not have come at a better time for Ortiz and her family.
“It has been a hard, hard year for me,” Ortiz said to Jenkins inside her living room. Ortiz, who has legal guardianship of her two grandchildren, said she had to take everything on this year after her husband lost his job. On Monday, she only had two gifts under her tree.
“This is a true blessing. I know things are going to get better, things are starting to get better right now,” Ortiz said. “I just want my kids to be appreciative, and to remember that are still good people out there.”
Across Camden, 140 families received the same help the Ortiz family did Monday thanks to the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation’s annual Holiday Dinner Basket Surprise.
The annual giving event was started in 2011 in New Orleans by NFL player Malcolm Jenkins as a way for his foundation to provide food baskets filled with a turkey and everything needed to prepare a holiday meal for families in need. In addition to the food baskets, families with children 15 years and under all receive toys for the holiday.
“When you see the faces of the families that you are able to help, you know it means something,” said the Pro Bowl safety earlier in the morning. “We’re not just here to make ourselves feel good, this is actually needed and its thing that helps lives. That’s what drives us to continue to do this work.”
This is the first year the foundation held the giveaway in Camden.
“Camden is right over the bridge, and we made a commitment as a nonprofit to make a difference here in Camden through a partnership with the mayor’s office and we’re fulfilling that commitment,” said Gwendolyn Jenkins, the mother of Malcolm Jenkins and president of the foundation.
In the spring, the foundation held Get Ready Fest at the Antioch Baptist Church and helped over 800 families by donating 25 pounds of food and resources to each family.
“We vowed to come back and continue to give to this community,” Gwendolyn Jenkins said.
This morning, Jenkins was joined by Moran and dozens of volunteers from the Antioch Baptist Church to pack the 140 food baskets with food donated from Brown’s ShopRite that will be delivered later today.
“That’s a lot of people we’re going to be able to impact over the holidays,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “I know how I grew up, and how fortunate I was to always have gifts, to always have a meal with my family around these times, and that's that the holidays are all about.
“Often times we forget that some people aren’t as fortunate, so it means a lot to be able to relieve some of that pressure on parents to have to put food on the table and get gifts for the kids. This is just our opportunity to relieve some of that pressure around the holidays when people should be enjoying themselves.”
The foundation invites 27 community organizations in each of the three cities the event is held — New Orleans, Philadelphia and Camden — to participate in the Holiday Dinner Basket Surprise. Each community partner selects the families that are in need and then delivers the baskets and gifts to the families they selected.
Each family receives a 14-pound turkey, one box of stuffing, one can of cranberry sauce, two large cans of green beans, two large cans of collard greens, two boxes of macaroni and cheese, five pounds of potatoes, a bag of fresh produce, one box of spaghetti, one large jar of spaghetti sauce, bread and dinner Rolls, cider/punch, one box of rice, a can of milk, one package of gravy, one sweet potato pie, an aluminum pan, paper plates and utensils.
“It’s hope, commitment. When I first met with Malcolm, he said he was going to double down on the city and that’s what he’s doing,” Moran said. “He’s more than a championship player, he’s a committed person to the community and that's why we have a wonderful partnership.”
In addition to the food baskets, families residing in Philadelphia and Camden with children 15 years and under will all receive toys and gifts for the holiday, thanks to the collaboration and contributions from the City of Camden, Hersha Hotels and Resorts, Coral Homes, Dolly’s Boutique, Philadelphia PAL, The Harrison College House at the University of Pennsylvania, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. Chi Upsilon and Damari Savile who each conducted toy drives in support of The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation.