Tadeo Baltazar will turn 2 the day after Thanksgiving. His big sister, Isabella, picks him out a birthday cake as he watches Coco on his mom’s cellphone while sitting in a shopping cart. Oh, and Kings center Kosta Koufos is pushing the cart.
That was the norm at Raley’s on Fair Oaks Boulevard Wednesday evening as the Kings hosted the first annual “Shop Like a King” event with Raley’s and the Sacramento Food Bank.
Ten needy families were invited to pair up with a Kings player or coach and shop for the upcoming holidays. They picked out Thanksgiving turkeys, produce, snacks and drinks — and were encouraged to go all out.
The families didn’t have to worry about pantry staples, because Raley’s provided every family a bag full of kitchen necessities, like rice, beans, pasta, eggs, bread and salt and pepper.
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Tadeo’s mom, Pearl Baltazar, was invited by the Sacramento Food Bank, where she attends parent education classes. As Koufos bagged her groceries, she called the experience “overwhelming.”
“It’s amazing. To be able to go home and stock the fridge with all these groceries, it’s amazing,” Baltazar said. She said the event was “very warm” and said Koufos was “nothing but very good to us.”
Kelly Siefkin, vice president of communications and marketing at the Sacramento Food Bank, said the 10 families ranged in size from one person to eight people. In total, 48 people were helped by this event, Siefkin said.
“There’s so many more that we serve every day,” Siefkin said, “but it made a huge difference for the ten families that joined us.”
Lois William is a single mom and widow with three daughters. She and her daughter Reevona picked up everything they needed for Thanksgiving “and then some,” William said. Under her jean jacket, her shirt was filled with fresh signatures from Kings players.
“When I first heard about this (event), I cried ... it’s been so great,” William said.
She said the food bank helped her adjust to becoming a single mom.
“It was an adjustment, but the things they do at the Sacramento Food Bank help so much,” William said. “They help you feel like you’re not alone all the time.”
Kings assistant coach Bryan Gates said the event was “great.”
“It’s always fun to meet new people, some new Kings fans and spend some one-on-one time with them,” Gates said.
Most families ended up filling two shopping carts before the night was through. The produce aisle was a sea of purple as players and families picked out fresh fruits and vegetables. A celebratory feeling hung in the air, and each family expressed much gratitude for the generosity.
As Baltazar was checking out, she spotted a display of teddy bears that are part of Raley’s holiday drive to give a small bag of staple items to other needy families. She bought one.
“(Tadeo) can keep the bear as a keepsake,” Baltazar said. “And it will give back to someone else.”