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Vikings in the Community: Offensive, Defensive Linemen Hand Out Thanksgiving Meals at The Salvation Army Locations

Vikings players distributed hundreds of meals to families in need at the Salvation Army in the Twin Cities.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Edward Taylor came back for seconds.

The St. Paul resident was among those who were grateful Tuesday night as he was one of dozens of people who received a Thanksgiving meal from the Vikings offensive line at The Salvation Army. The position group partnered with UnitedHealthcare to provide the meals.

The offensive line handed out bags of food to those in need, with each person receiving a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, gravy, cranberry sauce and, of course, pumpkin pie.

“I came here last year and got one, so I had to come here again,” said Taylor, who was wearing a Vikings jacket and purple shoes. “It was great [last year] … I cooked it on the grill. I’m going to cook this one on the grill, too.

“I love Thanksgiving … and I’m a big Vikings fan,” Taylor added.

All 11 of the offensive linemen in the Vikings locker room — Garrett Bradbury, Aviante Collins, Dakota Dozier, Pat Elflein, Rashod Hill, John Keenoy, Josh Kline, Brian O’Neill, Riley Reiff, Dru Samia and Oli Udoh — showed up to give back to the community.

Bradbury and Elflein described the joy they felt in helping others.

“Everyone needs to have a Thanksgiving meal,” Bradbury said. “We’re trying to do our best to help the community. I hope they enjoy a good meal and enjoy Thanksgiving the right way.”

Elflein added: “We’re a close group, so anytime we can get together and do something like this, we have a blast doing it. It’s an honor, and this is what it’s about.”

Lonneal Richardson, a Lt. Colonel with The Salvation Army, said the generosity of the players won’t soon be forgotten.

“It lets [people] know that someone cares,” Richardson said. “It’s not only a meal, but when they sit down to enjoy that meal, they know it was prepared and given out with a sense of appreciation and care.

“That is the lasting effect this will have,” Richardson added. “The children that are coming through, this will be a life-changing event for them.”

The Vikings offensive linemen were glad to help those in need.

“Just that they have something positive to think about today or this week or this month,” O’Neill said about the impact of the event. “It’s a great holiday, and hopefully they’re able to spend it with family or loved ones.

“But now we know they’ve got a meal to make it a little better,” O’Neill added.

While the offensive line was in St. Paul, members of the Vikings defensive line handed out meals at a Minneapolis location.

Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph were there to help out, as were Stephen Weatherly, Shamar Stephen and Stacy Keely. The group also gave out 250 meals to those who are less fortunate.

Weatherly said the group was happy to lend a helping hand around the holidays.

“It was awesome, just to show support for the people that show us support week-in and week-out,” Weatherly said. “You can interact with them on a personal basis, and that’s always cool.”

Diggs, Rhodes & Thielen host individual give-back events | By Lindsey Young

While not every position group officially held a turkey giveaway, other Vikings individually hosted Thanksgiving food distribution events around the Twin Cities.

Receiver Adam Thielen; his wife, Caitlin; and their oldest son, Asher, visited The Salvation Army (Lakewood location) on Nov. 19 and spent time with families there. Thanks to the locally based Jennie-O Turkey store, the Thielen family donated 1,000 turkeys for the holidays.

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes and his family surprised community members at the Jerry Gambles Boys & Girls Club during their annual Thanksgiving celebration. Rhodes, who has a long-standing relationship with the Boys & Girls Clubs, purchased 100 turkeys from the Robbinsdale Hy-Vee and gave them away to local families.

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Additionally, receiver Stefon Diggs partnered with Greater Twin Cities United Way on his third annual turkey giveaway.

Diggs personally donated 750 turkeys to families in need on Nov. 26, three days before celebrating his 26th birthday.

“Thanksgiving has always been a special holiday for me since it falls near my birthday,” Diggs said. “I know the holiday season can be difficult, which is why it is my absolute pleasure to host my annual turkey drive to help lift the burden a bit for some local families.”

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