49ers serve up turkey and all the trimmings

A handful of teammates from the San Francisco 49ers made a brief foray into the food service industry today, serving turkey, dressing, pie and other Thanksgiving staples to residents at the Salvation Army's Railton Place residence.

The facility, which is home to a mix of veterans, people who have completed treatment programs, and young adults who aged out of the foster care system, opened in the Tenderloin neighborhood in September 2008.

Occupants have their own kitchens, and generally provide their own meals.

However, residents and guests gathered in the facility's gymnasium today for a Thanksgiving meal served up by a hulking waitstaff whose day job is over at Candlestick Park.

About 70 of Railton Place's 110 residents arrived for lunch as soon as the food was served, said Salvation Army Major George Rocheleau, administrator at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, where the residence is located.

“Having the 49ers here makes it special, and a lot of folks may not have family nearby,” he said. The meal was also a chance for residents to interact with one another, he said, since they don't usually take meals communally.

Each table at today's lunch bore the name of the player or staff member assigned to make sure diners had enough to eat. Injured right tackle Tony Pashos kept an eye on his table as he spoke, but said he was trying not to hover.

“My name is on that table, and I have to make sure everyone is happy,” he said.
   
About five players dished up plates for diners, along with 49ers staff and team owner Jed York. Many diners sported the team's colors of red and gold, and players spent just as much time posing for pictures as they did delivering plates of turkey and gravy.

“You're not eating, Jack,” Pashos admonished a man who approached him with a 49ers hat to autograph.

The life of a professional football player is a rare sort of existence, and players benefit from interacting with all facets of the community, said Andy Dolich, the team's chief operating officer.

“With professional football teams, people say they take more out of the community than they give back,” he said. “Our mission is to give back as much as we can.”

Guard Tony Wragge said he was “humbled by the opportunity to do this.” However, he was less than humble when it came to his food service skills.

“I don't like to brag, but I did two plates at a time, while some people just took one,” he said. “I'm two times as productive.”

Railton resident Ronnette Reed, 21, counts herself as an avid 49ers fan and was excited to talk with linebacker Manny Lawson and cornerback Dre' Bly.

“But I got my picture with all of them,” she said. “Sometimes it's nice for them to get a little bit of support.”

Reed arrived for lunch, and departed with a to-go container of additional turkey and stuffing “so I can have something for later.”

Joshua Betts, 20, who also lives at Railton Place confessed that he isn't a football fan. “I'm probably more interested in the food,” he said.

“I'm really itching to get back to my pecan pie.”

However, Betts is planning to attend his first-ever 49ers game later this month as part of a Salvation Army outing.

The players serve a Thanksgiving meal at a different site every year, said team spokeswoman Lisa Goodwin. Last year's meal was in San Jose and a group did a site visit to select the Salvation Army's new facility, located at 240 Turk St.

“They just fell in love with this community center,” she said.

“It's right here in the middle of the Tenderloin.”
 

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