For one day, you could have called Scott Harrington by the name of Scott Hairnet.
The Blue Jackets defenseman and a handful of teammates donned hairnets and aprons Monday at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank as they helped prepare meals that will be delivered to afterschool programs in the community.
It was a hands-on experience, but one that meant a great deal to Harrington.
"Looking back, when I was in high school, fortunately I had a lunch packed for me every day, but there were some people that I went to school with and obviously a ton of kids everywhere that aren't as fortunate," he said. "For us to help, it's really rewarding."
Down one hallway, Harrington's teammates helped restock the shelves at the foodbank's Kroger Community Food Pantry. Down the other, the rest of the Blue Jackets helped sort donations that will be distributed throughout the central Ohio community. When all was said and done the team prepared 175 kids meals, prepped the pantry to serve more than 300 families, and sorted and packed more than 4,000 pounds of donations.
PHOTO GALLERY: Player Day of Service presented by Kroger at Mid-Ohio Foodbank
It was a team effort, as one would expect on the organization's annual Player Day of Service presented by Kroger. Staying true to the team's spirit of giving back to the community, the day brings together the Blue Jackets players for a good cause.
And the Mid-Ohio Foodbank certainly qualifies. When the players arrived at the organization's Grove City headquarters, CEO Matt Habash told the players of the work the foodbank, the 14th largest in the nation, does in the community. The foodbank, which serves 20 counties across the state of Ohio, distributes more than 70 million pounds of food per year, serves 525,000 people per year and gets its job done thanks to 72,000 volunteer hours from 13,000 people.
On Monday, the Blue Jackets were those volunteers.
"None of this would happen without volunteers," Habash said. "Anytime we're fortunate enough to have somebody like the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are a very community-oriented organization, come here, it just raises the awareness that, 'Hey, there's an opportunity for you to get involved to help,' whether it's with us or one of our partners as well.
"And it's an opportunity to give the players, who may never see some of this, an opportunity to see how a lot of people are struggling, and they can help. They step up and help, and that's a big deal to us."
The holiday season is also a critical time for the foodbank, which distributed 400,000 pounds of food alone near the Thanksgiving holiday.
"Always at the holiday time is one of the times when we are the busiest," Habash said. "We all celebrate (Thanksgiving) with a meal, and we want everybody else to have that opportunity. It will continue as it starts to get colder. We start to see more and more need for help. Most of the people we help are working and they're playing by all the rules, doing everything they can, so when utility bills start to climb because of the cold weather and things, it's a time of year we need more help."
For Kroger, the chance to partner with the Blue Jackets and the Mid-Ohio Foodbank is an easy one. The grocer has a goal to remove all waste from its stores by 2025 and end hunger in the communities it serves. Amy McCormick, corporate affairs manager for Kroger, pointed out that 40 percent of all food currently produced in America goes to waste.
"I use the analogy, if you go shopping today and you buy five bags of groceries and you put three bags in your car and leave two in the parking lot and go home, people think that is absurd," McCormick said. "But we do that every day in the United States. And yet one in six fellow Ohioans will go to bed hungry tonight, and one in five children will go to bed hungry.
"The only right answer is to end hunger and have that be zero. When we look at who we want to partner with in the community, we look to 'How can we move the mission of ending hunger forward?' The Blue Jackets coming out today and packing meals and making meals and setting up the Kroger Community Pantry was just a win-win for us."
The visit took about an hour out of the day for the Blue Jackets, but the impact will reach many across the community.
"It's easy for us," Harrington said. "It's just an hour out of our day, and it really puts things in perspective when you see people that are volunteering on a daily basis and giving up their time. It feels great to join them and help out a little bit. We have a lot of hands, so we're able to get a lot of work done in an hour. It's been a great day."