Last Updated on December 7, 2002 by Paulette Brown-Hinds

While Piatkowski came through for his teammates in a big way on Sunday, he came through for the community in an even bigger way on Monday.

The Clippers held their annual Thanksgiving event, “Teamwork at the Table,” in Venice. The team served Thanksgiving meals to children and their families at Bread & Roses Café. Piatkowski was the first to arrive after practice and was joined by Cherokee Parks, Keyon Dooling, Melvin Ely, Alvin Gentry, Dennis Johnson, Elgin Baylor and several members of the Clippers Spirit. The players and coaches breezed through the dining room, serving meals and chatting with the mission’s homeless clients. Rhonda Meister, executive director of St. Joseph’s Center believes that the team’s participation has an extremely positive effect on the mission’s clients. “It means so much to them that people who are ‘famous’ would take time to cater to them,” she says. “The Clippers involvement symbolizes someone caring for them and it becomes a motivating factor. (The Thanksgiving event) adds something special to their lives – especially at this time of year when many people look to be with their families and we work to create a family atmosphere.” After the team finished serving lunch, they headed west to St. Joseph’s Center where they handed out Thanksgiving baskets and turkeys. The Clippers have been involved in the program since it’s inception in 1989 and every year, give away at least 300 Thanksgiving dinners to seniors and working families. “These people would not be able to afford these meals otherwise,” said Meister. We have working families who, after they pay their rent and utilities, they have maybe $300 left at the end of the month. Without the Clippers doing this, we couldn’t help these people nearly as much.” Executive Vice President, Andy Roeser took over at the turkey table while players and coaches were happily chatting with the families and handing out the rest of the food while Dooling was handing out books. “You’re only supposed to take one,” he told one woman. “Do you have a little boy or a little girl?” When the woman told him that she had one of each, he winked at her and said, “OK, take two – I won’t tell anybody.”
With all the work the team does in the community, serving the people of St. Joseph’s is Piatkowski’s favorite. “It’s really cool,” he beams. “We get to talk to the people and interact. They are very nice and they love talking to you. We’re not just serving them, we try to sit down and get to know them.” Every year, the Clippers rotate players who are invited to the Thanksgiving event. As the senior member of the team, Piatkowski gets to call his own shots and every year, he makes sure to be at St. Joseph’s. Another face that turns up every holiday season is Baylor’s. Baylor and the Clippers are currently working with the center to raise funds to expand and improve the facility to better serve seniors, families and children. The new structure will feature larger counseling facilities and a culinary arts training program (which is currently run from Bread & Roses), which is designed to teach skills which will allow their homeless clients to get back on their feet. St. Joseph’s job training programs have had a 70% placement rate over the last 13 years.
Sister Eileen, the mission’s director has been working with the Hall of Famer since the program began. Growing up in Brooklyn with three brothers, Sister Eileen became a huge sports fan and admires everything Baylor has ever done on the basketball court yet it is evident that she is even more impressed with what he does off the court. “I really enjoy it,” he says. “I get a chance to meet a lot of nice people from all walks of life. It’s nice to try to make the holiday season pleasant for people, especially people with kids. It’s the least you can do”.