Article written by: Jonah Jordan

Elliot Perry and Memphis Athletic Ministries Interim President Kim Cherry arrived at the MAM Memphis Grizzlies Center well before the food distribution line opened at 10 a.m. Friday .

They were met with a long line of ministry members waiting to pick up one of 400 available 14-day food packs.

“When we got here this morning the line was insane,” said Perry, a former NBA player, and minority share owner of the Memphis Grizzlies. “It proved to me the tremendous need. Particularly when kids are out of school, and when some parents are out of a job or their jobs have slowed down. This is just a small token to serve our community in a way where we realize that God has blessed us in a lot of ways.”

Perry and his family decided they wanted to help the Memphis community and thought there was no better way than through MAM where he is a member of the board. They reached out to the Mid-South Food Bank and donated 200 meals

Grizzlies guard-forward Justise Winslow and his mother, Robin Davis, contacted Perry about helping Memphis despite Winslow only recently arriving in town via trade with Miami. They matched the Perry family’s 200 donations.

“We decided to partner with Memphis Athletic Ministries because we know what they do in the community day-in and day-out,” Perry said. “We just decided to serve our community. There has been a tremendous response. We knew that families would show up. A lot of people who have come here have not been a part of MAM and that’s okay. We just want to make sure that we are serving the families that come through.”

Friday’s food distribution was the first of two events MAM plans for members of their eight gyms and other members of the community. Cherry, who also serves as MAM’s chief executive officer, wants to make the food drive a weekly staple as long as Mayor Jim Strickland’s Safer in Place executive order is in effect.

At one point the need for food outweighed the amount MAM had available. A hundred cars remained despite the amount of available food dwindling. Volunteers tried to stretch as much as they could, but some left without any of the 14-day meal packs.

“Unfortunately, some people are going to leave here disappointed today and that really breaks your heart,” Cherry said. “We’re just going to do our part and do the best we can and try to keep the food coming for the people that need it.”

Members of the MAM organization worked relentlessly to distribute food through car windows using proper social distancing guidelines. Workers used masks and gloves then took breaks every 30 minutes to wash and sanitize their hands.

Workers, including Perry, wouldn’t take breaks to get the pizza or chicken minis Cherry provided before the event started.

“We’re very lucky we’re able to continue to pay our full- and part-time employees,” Cherry said. “They’ve come out in droves today, and I can’t even get them to take a break. None of them wants to go in and just get a drink of water or grab a piece of pizza. They just want to keep serving these families and we’re trying to offer blessings to them”

Cherry is looking for more funding to achieve her goal of once per week. She encourages social distancing, giving blood and donating to the Mid-South Food Bank so more events can be possible.

“We can help a lot of people who need a lot of help at this time,” Cherry said. “This is a beautifully generous city and I’m just so pleased to see how people are stepping up and I just encourage people to continue to step up as they have.”

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