November 23, 2022 : By Christian Shields - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
In addition to Liberty University’s commitment to building successful athletic programs, it also emphasizes the importance of those same student-athletes giving back to the community through team-led food drives.
One example of this is Liberty Football’s Thanksgiving food drive this week, in which players and staff gathered food for families in need. One family was assigned to each position group on the team, with five additional families supported by Head Coach Hugh Freeze and the support staff. The team reached out to churches and other community outreach centers like the Jubilee Family Development Center to find families who could benefit from the free meals.
According to Matt Bevins, associate athletic director for football operations and chief of staff, this initiative began when Freeze joined the team in 2019 and has evolved over the years since its inception. While players originally delivered the meals to families themselves, COVID-19 forced the football team to adjust its approach. Now, the teams deliver the food to local churches, who in turn give the food to the individual families.
“It’s just a great opportunity to give back to the community, especially for those that are in need,” Bevins said.
This initiative has received large support from the players as well.
“That means a lot to me because growing up I was one of those people where people were giving to me,” senior safety Javon Scruggs said. “I was one of those people where I had to go to the food drives to try to find food to put on the table for Thanksgiving or going to the local churches, getting box foods, and stuff like that. So, it means more to me now that I’m able to be in a position where I can help those families.”
In some instances, the players themselves are able to shop for the food, allowing them to further invest in the difference that they are making in the communities.
“It means a whole lot because you understand that, yes, we’re here to play football, but we also understand that we’re here to do something more than just football and to use our pedestal and the blessings and opportunities we’ve been given,” sixth year senior Michael Bollinger said. “I think it’s shown a lot of guys on our team that when you’re blessed with certain things, you’re blessed with a pedestal, it’s your job to give back.”
This is only one example of several different service opportunities offered through Liberty Athletics. Earlier this season, the Student-Athlete Advisory Community (SAAC) led the Trick Or Treat So Others Can Eat drive. Liberty’s 20 NCAA teams and cheerleading squad combined to donate 5,450 items to local food pantries. The women’s lacrosse team collected the most (1,001 items) for this cause.
Liberty Athletics has also created a number of other programs to serve those in the community.
Liberty Student-Athlete Development’s SHERO initiative works to empower female athletes.
Student-athletes read to second- and third-grade students at R.S. Payne Elementary on Wednesdays as part of the “Learn Like Liberty” campaign.
At the conclusion of 2022, student-athletes will also collect clothing items in support of the Share the Warmth campaign.