Giving back

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It does take a village.

No one knows that better than Cornelius Griffin.

On Tuesday, Griffin returned to the “village” that has encouraged and supported him through good times and tough times. He came home because he wanted to be a part of the Thanksgiving celebration. He wanted to personally say “thank you,” to the place where his home and his heart will always be.

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For each of the past eight years, Griffin, defensive tackle for the Washington Redskins of the National Football League, has sponsored a community Thanksgiving dinner for hundreds of the elderly, sick and shut-ins in the Brundidge area as a way of giving back to the community that has given him so much.

“I have one day a week off and that’s Tuesday,” Griffin said. “The Thanksgiving dinners have been on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This year, I wanted to be here so I asked my mother if we could change the dinner to Tuesday. It’s important for me to be here to say thank you to the community.”

Griffin’s idea to host a Thanksgiving dinner for the community was born out of his love for family.

“Family is everything,” he said. “If you don’t have family, then you don’t have anything. Your community is part of your family. I have three mottos, ‘Don’t embarrass God. Don’t embarrass your family. Don’t embarrass the Redskins.’ I just wanted to be here to let the people of my community know how much they are appreciated.”

And, it has been the “village” that has stepped in for nine years now to make the annual Thanksgiving dinners a reality.

“It wouldn’t be possible without all of them,” Griffin said.

“Of course, it all starts with my mom.”

Martha Griffin is the organizer but she is quick to give credit to the many who prepare and serve the home cooked, from scratch Thanksgiving dinner.

Cornelius makes funds available for the hams, turkeys and other food items for the holiday meal with the exception of the contributions of Robert Boyd.

“Robert grows all of the turnips, collards and sweet potatoes that we serve,” said Martha Griffin. “We have people from Lily White Church and the Jerusalem Temple who volunteer to do the cooking. Members of the Brundidge Rotary Club and the Brundidge Business Association deliver the meals. It’s a community effort.”

On Tuesday, Martha Griffin said 400 take-out meals were prepared and another 100-plus would be served on site at Brundidge Station.

Cornelius Griffin said it was a real blessing for him to be in Brundidge and see the smiles on the faces of those who enjoy the community Thanksgiving dinner.

“This is only the second time since I went away to college that I’ve gotten to have Thanksgiving at home,” he said.

“This is special for me.”

His friends and neighbors wanted the inside scoop on the NFL from their favorite star.

“Ah, man,” was about all Griffin had to say about the 3-7 record of the Redskins.

“We need to stay focused for the rest of the season,” he said.

“We lost a heartbreaker to Dallas in the last minutes of the game but we’ve got to go out and compete. We’ve got six more games and we need to make them count.”

Griffin skirted questions about retirement.

“But 10 years is a long time for a D-tackle,” he said.

“What about the Iron Bowl?” someone asked.

“Twenty-eight to seven. Roll Tide!” the former Alabama gridiron star said with a big smile.

Then he turned serious and admitted that he is living the dream of many who play “the game.”

“I am living the dream,” Griffin said.

“God gave me the abilities and He gave me the opportunities. He gives us all opportunities, just not all in the same arena. I wasn’t the strongest or the fastest but I took advantage of the opportunities. It has been a privilege for me to play in the NFL. It’s been a good journey but it will come to an end sooner or later – and probably sooner.”

Griffin then turned his thoughts back to the “village.”

“I can’t forget about what this town has done for me, what it means to me,” he said.

“I just want to let everyone know how much I appreciate home.”