By CHRIS McMANES — Hundreds of Prince George’s County residents will be enjoying Thanksgiving dinner this year thanks to former DeMatha basketball star Jerami Grant.
His Saturday Nov. 23 “Thanksgiving Grant-ed” event at Peppermill Community Center in Landover, Md., was the third one his Hour Generation Foundation has sponsored. DeMatha varsity basketball players, coaches and managers packed 150 bags with a full Thanksgiving meal the night before.
On Saturday, several DeMatha juniors, seniors and staff members helped distribute the food. Members of the Stags baseball team have participated in past years.
Mike Jones, entering his 18th year as DeMatha basketball coach, said the experience teaches students valuable life lessons.
“When you have young men who are growing up and trying to learn how to be proper, be gentlemen, be scholars, be faith-filled – [values] our school stands by – this is something that definitely contributes to that,” Jones said. “… There’s no price you can put on it.”
Grant, who plays for the Denver Nuggets, gets plenty of help from his mother, Beverly; his youngest brother, Jaelin; and several volunteers. His aunt, Gail Taylor, and her husband, Eugene, flew in from St. Louis.
Jerami is one of Harvey and Beverly Grant’s four sons. They grew up in Bowie and graduated from DeMatha. Jerami finished in 2012 before attending Syracuse University.
“His mission, his vision, his contribution back to the community is something that we will always support,” Jones said. “We could not be more proud of him for doing something like this and for allowing us to be a part of his giving back.”
The reusable dinner bags have been donated the past three years by Smithfield (Va.) Foods. They included mashed potato, cornbread and cake mix, green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce, ground cinnamon, seasoning salt, macaroni and cheese and collard greens. A local farmer donated fresh potatoes, apples and yams.
“We try to provide quality things,” Gail Taylor said. “Jerami is big into healthy eating. He wants us to have more fresh foods.”
To qualify for the dinner, families had to show that they have a student at a nearby Title 1 school. Each of the first 150 families also received a turkey. An additional 50 turkeys were also distributed.
Other giveaway day highlights included face painting and presents for the kids, gift cards, hot dogs, a deejay and a photo booth. Some adults also left with kitchen items like toasters and mixers. Several Grant family members and friends donated items. The NBA and Washington Wizards also contributed.
“It’s not just a food giveaway,” Beverly Grant said. “We want to make it more of a carnival feeling.”
Tommy Paolucci, DeMatha’s admissions director, serves as a liaison between the school and Grant family. He was among those distributing food. He remembers Jerami at basketball camp and then coached him for three years (2009-12) as an assistant on Jones’ staff.
“I’ve seen the evolution of a boy into a young adult who is fortunate that, because he’s a super athlete, has an NBA salary,” Paolucci said. “He’s able to use some of that and give it back to his community. It’s a big, generous thing he’s doing.
“I’m very proud of him.”
Things weren’t always good for the Grant family. This helped inspire Jerami to help others.
“Even though my dad did play in the NBA, we fell on tough times, me and my mom and my brothers,” Jerami said. “Just going through what we went through, understanding that people do need help out here. Now I’m in a situation where I can reach out and help the community.”
Grant’s foundation has provided Christmas toys and backpacks for school children. Events have been held in Wichita, Kan., and Oklahoma City. Jerami played for the Thunder in the Oklahoma capital from 2016-19.
“We have a lot of things in the works that Jerami wants to do,” Beverly said.
The Hour Generation is also planning to enhance lives through a book drive and girls mentoring program. Jerami wants to “change people’s lives” rather than just give them a temporary lift.
“I want to thank God for allowing me to be in the position that I’m in,” Jerami said.
Jerami is chairman of his foundation’s board of directors. Beverly is vice chair.
“We have an amazing board that is devoted to making change in the community, in our thoughts, in our hearts and minds,” she said. “Jerami wants to do things not just during the holidays.”
Beverly credited DeMatha for helping to raise Jerami into a faith-filled gentleman and scholar. He genuinely wants to use his fame and fortune to help others.
“I’m proud that he cares,” she said. “He wants to make a difference.”
Chris McManes (mick-maynz) is an assistant baseball coach at DeMatha.