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Working together to make a difference

by Alison Lukan / Columbus Blue Jackets

Matt Calvert is one of the fastest Blue Jackets on the ice, but he also showed some speed off the ice when he and his teammates took part in their annual day of service.

Calvert and 12 of his teammates broke into four teams and assembled 19 tables that will be in the homes of central Ohio families in short order.

Calvert’s team, which included Cam Atkinson, Brandon Saad and Kevin Connauton, led the charge by assembling seven tables.

“I don’t think any other teams compared to us,” Calvert joked to BlueJackets.com. “We had a good strategy right from the start. The goal is to come in here and have fun, but at the same time, if we can build as many tables as possible and help as many families as we can, it’s great.”

Calvert, whose off-season passion is building and home improvement, says he looks forward to spending time at the Furniture Bank every year. When he wasn’t drilling, nailing, or lining up table legs, Calvert assumed the role of de facto foreman.

That included making sure that each table had an extra-special feature – autographs on the underside of each piece of furniture they assembled.

The players’ performance earned rave reviews from the Furniture Bank’s president, Steve Votaw.

“I would give them an A+,” Votaw said. “Every year we give out 70,000 pieces of furniture to families in need and we can’t begin to get enough just from donations. Our volunteers come in and build furniture, and it’s invaluable.”

Votaw said volunteers like the Jackets will build over 7,000 pieces of furniture each year that help families who may be enduring financial hardship, recovering from a tragedy such as a house fire, or facing other life challenges.

PHOTO GALLERY: 2015 DAY OF SERVICE

“So often we think about the house, or the roof over their head, but the truth is we know if a kid doesn’t have a bed to sleep in in our community, they’re not going to be ready for school the next day,” Votaw said.

“You’d be surprised to learn how many families don’t have a table to eat on - think about family relationships and how important that is. Or if you don’t have a couch to sit on. People don’t really think about the importance of furniture, but it’s furniture that makes your house a home.”

While 13 Blue Jackets were filling the role of handyman, 10 of their teammates were hard at work at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

Captain Nick Foligno and his group packed 1,769 pounds of food for over 600 food pantry sites in central Ohio.

“I think the hard part with our schedules is we don’t get a lot of time to go out and be hands on in the community – and now, we get to do that,” Foligno said. “I think the guys really enjoy that. It goes a lot further than an appearance or signing an autograph. You’re actually making a difference and you can see it. We get a big kick out of it.”

With the holidays close at hand, the Blue Jackets are hopeful that they were able to make this time of year just a little bit brighter for people in the central Ohio community.

“It means a lot,” Calvert said. “Families are in need during the holiday season and everyone needs a present, everyone needs a house, everyone needs furniture. All of this is for a great cause.”

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