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Hawks coaches dish out meals to needy Norcross families

Staff Photo: John Bohn Atlanta Hawks head coach Larry Drew, left, serves a portion of stuffing to Gloria Marin and her children Zahir Godinez, 9, and Zaira Godinez, 5. The Hawks coaching staff and former players partnered with the United Way to serve an early Thanksgiving meal to 300 individuals at Meadowcreek High School Tuesday evening.
 Staff Photo: John Bohn Zaira Godinez, 5, of Norcorss, butters a roll as the Atlanta Hawks coaching staff and former players partnered with the United Way, serve an early Thanksgiving meal to 300 individuals at Meadowcreek High School Tuesday evening. 

Staff Photo: John Bohn Atlanta Hawks head coach Larry Drew, left, serves a portion of stuffing to Gloria Marin and her children Zahir Godinez, 9, and Zaira Godinez, 5. The Hawks coaching staff and former players partnered with the United Way to serve an early Thanksgiving meal to 300 individuals at Meadowcreek High School Tuesday evening. Staff Photo: John Bohn Zaira Godinez, 5, of Norcorss, butters a roll as the Atlanta Hawks coaching staff and former players partnered with the United Way, serve an early Thanksgiving meal to 300 individuals at Meadowcreek High School Tuesday evening. 

NORCROSS -- Atlanta Hawks head coach Larry Drew donned a gray apron and chef's hat Tuesday night, helping sling mashed potatoes, green beans and turkey to needy families gathered at Meadowcreek High School.

Partnering with the United Way of Metro Atlanta, the Hawks coaching staff, several executives and a few alumni held their annual "Hawksgiving," this time delivering a Thanksgiving dinner to 300 individuals in the Norcross community.

They formed an assembly line along a buffet set up in Meadowcreek's cafeteria, each assigned to a specific station -- be it ham, rolls or pumpkin pie.

"They wouldn't let me back there to cook," Drew said with a laugh, "so I'll just have to serve."

The families chosen for Tuesday's dinner all were identified as living in one the United Way's four "opportunity zones," areas where the organization and volunteers plan to "take long-term action to reduce the cycle of poverty."

"These are people who might not get a Thanksgiving meal otherwise, and all our coaches are having a great time," Hawks president Bob Williams said. "We're so fortunate and blessed, and it feels good to give back to the community and meet Hawks fans where they live, work and play."

Tonya Short and Kim Colas, cousins who live next door to each other in Norcross, brought their seven combined children to the event.

"We get to sit down and eat dinner with the kids," Short said, "where normally it's kind of hard to get everybody together."

Said Colas: "We're very thankful for it."

The Hawks organization would have been holding their annual event either way, but the current NBA labor disagreements and subsequent lockout certainly made Tuesday's dinner a little easier to schedule. Drew said he was hopeful there would still be an NBA season, and that he was closely monitoring the developments and discussions between the league's players and owners.

Meanwhile, he's got plenty of time to help serve the greater Atlanta community.

"This is the start of the holiday season and quite frankly I look forward to this every year," Drew said. "It's great to be part of it again this year.