By Kyle LoJacono
When Jason Stokes became Gaither’s football coach in January, one of the things he wanted to instill was a since of pride in the community.
The Cowboys took a step toward bettering their community by volunteering at Metropolitan Ministries’ Kitchen, Warehouse, & Outreach Center in Hillsborough County on Saturday, Aug. 6.
“It’s something I really believe in,” Stokes said. “I’ve had my teams do it since back when I was at Bloomingdale. We didn’t do Metropolitan Ministries, but other charities like it. It helps give the team a sense of what is really important.”
Stokes coached at Bloomingdale in 2008 and Middleton the last two years before coming to Gaither. He sees it as an opportunity to teach his players while they make a difference.
“It’s important to realize how blessed you really are,” Stokes said. “You see a lot of people with a lot of dignity who fell on hard times. It teaches the kids to appreciate everything they have. I tell the kids you should always do nice things like this because everything comes full circle. It’s a good habit to have. These kids will be fathers some day and I want them to have their kids give back in the future too.”
Members of both the Cowboys varsity and junior varsity squads, as well as coaches took time out of their weekend to help out.
“It was nice to get out there and give back,” said senior defensive back Tyler McCollum. “Coach Stokes is always talking about accountability and doing the right things and this is just another way we can show we are doing the right things. Everyone really liked getting a chance to give back and know they are making a difference.”
McCollum said it was the first time the team has done a project like this during his time on the squad. He added the players didn’t mind putting in the time on a hot summer weekend.
“It made all of us feel good,” McCollum said. “It was hot and sure there were other things we could have been doing on a Saturday, but we know how much it means to the people we helped. That’s a really cool thing.”
The Cowboys did whatever the workers at Metropolitan Ministries needed for the day.
“We had a large group, so they separated us to help with a few different projects,” Stokes said. “We had some working in the outreach center, some in the food bank, some working in the thrift store and some in the warehouse and stuffing back to school backpacks.”
Stokes said the team will continue to donate time at various charities throughout the year.
“I told the kids they should expect to get out there are least three or four times each year, so we will be back,” Stokes said. “The people at Metropolitan Ministries told me they were very excited to have so many young men come out and help. They said we were one of the best groups to come out and help them. That really made me proud.”
Stokes also encouraged others to give back.
“We were out there all day and hardly made a dent in everything they have to do,” Stokes said. “They can use all the help they can get.”
Gaither will play its kickoff classic football game at home against Sickles on Friday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. The Cowboys will host Alonso on Friday, Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m. for their regular season opener.