Second Harvest celebrates community partners including Thomas and Kelly Davis

By Maureen O’Boyle


Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina held their 2014 Partner Appreciation Award luncheon Thursday at Meyers Park Methodist. The non-profit took time to thank the local businesses, faith-based organizations and individuals who have worked over the last year to help Second Harvest fight hunger in our area.

This year’s Ted Heyward Award, “Compassion in Action” recognition went to Thomas and Kelly Davis. This is the first time the award has been given to a couple.

Ted Heyward was a founding chairman of Second Harvest who always hoped his work wouldn’t be needed for long, but hunger, as we know still exists. As Executive Director Kay Carter made the announcement, it was clear the impact the Davis family has had over the last several years and particularly in 2014.

6512675_GThe Carolina Panthers’ star-player, Carter said, gives as much to his community as he gives on the field, total commitment! Together with his Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation, the couple has supported Second Harvest through their fundraisers as well as generous financial donations.

“Second Harvest has done a great job for this community. They are helping families out and making sure children don’t go hungry. And we believe in that same thing so we try to make a difference as well, we’re just happy to be involved,” Thomas Davis told me after accepting their award. “It’s definitely an honor just knowing some of the recipients who have received this award. It definitely means a lot to us. We’re just excited to be recipients today.”

Kelly Davis was a bit surprised when the screen flashed her name too as the award was announced. “I was just sitting here today. I was thinking Thomas was going to be honored and then it was both of us. Anything that he’s doing I’m there 100% and this is something near and dear to our hearts. We’re honored,” Kelly said.

Bank of America and The Springs Close Foundation were given The Lifetime Achievement Awards for their tremendous ongoing support of Second Harvest throughout the Carolinas. Kay got emotional highlighting their work describing them as always going the extra mile to give of their time, effort, talents and financial support.

Hendrick Automotive, and Lynn Carlson were celebrated for their new program and huge financial donation to create “Together We Feed”, a mobile food pantry program that is designed to bring fresh vegetables and food directly to families at their childrens’ schools.

The event highlighted commitments from several local businesses, Harris Teeter and Food Lion were recognized for their contributions of food and support through special events and fundraisers. David Weekley Homes was honored for the efforts employees made collecting turkeys for families to enjoy a holiday meal. The number of turkeys collected this year well over 2,000!

Vanguard employees were celebrated for amping up this year’s efforts and making a huge impact in Second Harvest’s work throughout 19 counties to fill shelves in hundreds of pantries. Charlotte Eye Ear Nose and Throat held special events throughout the year. They received the Special Events Partner Award. The list of companies recognized also included Cargill, Simpson’s Eggs, Titan Farms, Whole Foods, Vanguard, DP World, CRVA, Art Institute of Charlotte, Electrolux and Mercedes-Benz of South Charlotte and Felix Sebates.

The Faith Based Partner Award went to Elevation Church, celebrated for the hundreds of volunteer hours church members committed through food drives during their “Love Week”.

A man you will see at almost any Second Harvest Food Bank Function is Earnest Perry. And he was given Individual Volunteer Award for his work as auctioneer, “The best in the business,” said Carter. He also gives generously from his company, Perry Fine Antique and Estate Jewelry.

As a representative of WBTV, I accepted the honor of Media Partner Award. I feel blessed every time I am asked to help, whether it’s Chef’s Best, Empty Bowls or packing bags of food for their Harvest Feast Food Drive.

Second Harvest works tirelessly to end hunger, especially among our children and elderly.

Second Harvest Food Bank serves food pantries and school programs in nineteen counties across North and South Carolina. As Kay Carter told the crowd the organization can only carry out their mission with the help of volunteers. They have all kinds of volunteer opportunities, and are always great for support through financial means or food donations.

The next big fundraiser is the Empty Bowls event. Tickets are currently on sale for the March luncheon at

Copyright 2015 WBTV. All rights reserved.

Carolina Panthers’ Thomas Davis has waited for this moment

Just before kickoff for the Carolina Panthers’ 4:35 p.m. home playoff game Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals, linebacker Thomas Davis will look at his team and figure out what it needs.

This is one of Davis’ many roles. He is the last Panther to give a pregame speech – sometimes serious, sometimes emotional, always stirring.

“There’s always a message that needs to be delivered,” Davis said, “and I try to deliver it. I don’t plan ahead. It’s more passionate if you don’t. You wait for the feeling. You wait for the moment to arrive. And then you give the team what it needs.”

What the Panthers need Saturday – and what their community of fans need – is a feeling that few of them remember. The Panthers have made an unlikely run to the playoffs; now they actually need to win a playoff game for the first time in nine years.

gallery-7Davis, 31, is the only remaining player from the last Carolina team that won in the postseason. The 2005 Panthers squad won two straight playoff games (in Jan. 2006) before losing in the NFC championship game.

Davis was a quiet rookie then out of the University of Georgia. He didn’t start yet. He mostly played safety. His right knee was unscarred.

Now Davis is the Panthers’ longest-tenured player and one of its most respected ever. He has made millions playing the game he loves. His work in the community made him one of three national finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award after the 2013 season.

Davis is also believed to be the first NFL player to successfully come back from three surgeries to repair a torn ACL. Davis has torn up the same ACL in his right knee on three separate occasions, the last time in 2011. Knee reconstruction and months of painful rehab have followed each time. He told friends and family he was going to quit after the third injury but reconsidered and has now played three full seasons on his thrice-repaired knee.

There is no player on the current team who better exemplifies the “Keep Pounding” mantra of the late Sam Mills – also a beloved Carolina linebacker – than Davis. But for all that, there’s a lot Davis still wants from his NFL career he doesn’t have.

Davis has never made the Pro Bowl, although his teammates rail against this injustice. Although his nickname and initials are “TD,” he has never scored an NFL touchdown. What would have been his first, against Atlanta last week, was called back because of a flag.

Most important, Davis said: “I’ve been here half the organization’s existence – 10 out of the Panthers’ 20 years. And we’ve never won a Super Bowl. I’ve never even won a playoff game after that rookie year. I need more time to do all the things I want to accomplish.”

Heartbeat of the team

Panther safety Roman Harper joined the team only this season after more than a decade of competing against Davis, first at the University of Alabama and then for the New Orleans Saints.

“Thomas really is the heartbeat of this defense and this team,” Harper said.

Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly gets all the awards and most of the endorsements, but Davis barely trails Kuechly in tackles this season. The two of them each have more than twice as many tackles as anyone else on the 2014 Panthers. Davis is also No. 2 on the all-time Panthers tackle list and should pass Mike Minter for No. 1 in 2015 if he has another season of this caliber.

“When he came in as a rookie we loved watching him,” said Jake Delhomme, the Panthers’ quarterback in 2005 and a teammate of Davis’ for five seasons. “He was so young and raw and fast. People forget he was drafted for one reason – to stop Michael Vick.”

Vick was Atlanta’s all-pro quarterback at the time. Davis was one of the few players fast enough to run with Vick before the quarterback’s career derailed because of injuries and off-field troubles. With Davis serving as Vick’s personal “spy” on the field, the Panthers quickly closed the gap on their NFC South rival.

Kelly Davis, Thomas’s wife, met him during his rookie season. They now have a blended family that includes four children, ages 5 to 12. Davis has a few superstitions. He won’t step on the three giant Panthers logos embedded into the locker-room carpet. “And he always wants me to take all four children to the game,” Kelly Davis said, “because we usually seem to win when I do that.”

Said Delhomme of Davis’ maturation: “He’s just the consummate pro. Thomas took care of his body – he wasn’t ever out there carousing and running the streets. And he and his wife, Kelly, have done an unbelievable job with their foundation. Thomas wants to be a model citizen.”

A Christmas without gifts

Davis and Kelly formed the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation in 2007, a nonprofit organization that serves underprivileged children with an emphasis on students in middle school. The foundation, which Kelly runs as a volunteer, has distributed more than $500,000 worth of aid since its inception, according to the Panthers. Most of the aid goes to the Charlotte area but also some to South Carolina and Georgia, which is Davis’ home state.

Davis is again Carolina’s nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, which goes to a single NFL player every year and is based on community service as well as on-field excellence. When Davis was announced as the Panthers’ nominee in November, owner Jerry Richardson issued a statement that read in part: “I have had the pleasure of watching Thomas Davis grow into the confident, mature, caring man he is today. No one takes his position of influence more seriously than Thomas on the field or in the community.”

Davis was raised by a single mother in Shellman, Ga. The poverty he faced there makes him understand the plight of the children he helps.

“I had at least two Christmases where I didn’t get a single gift,” Davis said. “I didn’t understand it. All you think as a kid is that I wasn’t good enough this year, so Santa didn’t bring me a gift. You try to figure out what you need to do better next year. … So we are trying to keep that from happening to other kids as much as we can.”

‘Pastor Davis’ gets ready

Unlike some players, Davis didn’t come into the NFL as a natural speaker. He always had a wide competitive streak, though. Even now, Davis races defensive teammates in practice to touch the ball first at the start of certain drills. “Well, it used to be a race,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “Now people mostly get out of his way for that, because he’s like a bull in a china shop and he can’t stand to lose.”

But talking? Davis rarely said more than 10 words at a time as a rookie. He was prone to painful silences in front of the cameras.

“I used to count the ‘umms’ Thomas would say when he spoke,” Kelly said, “I’d say, ‘Hey, you had 17 umms in that interview.’ And now I don’t have to do that anymore because it just comes to him so naturally. He’s just become this great leader, this great speaker. People that know him call him ‘Pastor Davis’ now sometimes.”

In pregame team huddles, Rivera said, “Thomas even gets me excited.”

The coach, a former NFL linebacker himself, has always had a special place in his heart for Davis. In 2012, Rivera got so choked up during a postgame news conference describing Davis’ contributions to the team that he had to abruptly leave the podium.

“Thomas has a tremendous amount of pride in who we are,” Rivera said this week, “and he gets that across to a lot of his teammates. His best characteristic as a player is actually his loyalty – how much he loves the organization and his teammates.”

Under contract with Carolina through 2015, Davis said he would like to play through at least 2016 but that he will never play for another NFL team.

Said Davis: “I want to extend my career until the Panthers say, ‘Hey, we appreciate your service, but we can no longer use you.’ I don’t know how long that’s going to be. But I’m going to enjoy my time until that happens.”

In the meantime, he will keep running around on that scarred right knee and inspiring his teammates with his words and his play.

“The best way I can say it,” Harper said, “is that Thomas Davis is a work of art. And people around him need to appreciate him. Because like all of us, he’s not going to play forever.”

Davis will be playing Saturday, though.

“The moment is almost here,” Davis said. “I’ve been waiting a long time. And we’ll be ready.”

Read more here:

Thomas Davis: Man of the Year every day

Posted Jan 28, 2015

Bryan Strickland, Senior Writer

CHARLOTTE – Countless NFL players use their fame and fortune to better the lives of those less fortunate than themselves.

Linebacker Thomas Davis, like many of his peers, coordinates a Christmas gift giveaway, a Thanksgiving meal and a school supply drive every year through his foundation. Repeatedly, Davis and others like him generously open their wallets.

Few, however, open their heart and their schedule quite like Davis.

“He’s here every Monday night,” Davis’ wife, Kelly, said during the latest gathering of the Thomas Davis Youth Leadership Academy. “Unless he’s got a Monday Night Football game, he’s here.”

Davis’ commitment to his community will be shared with the world Saturday night when he is highlighted as one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, presented by Nationwide, during the fourth annual “NFL Honors” awards show (9 p.m., NBC). A finalist for the second consecutive year, Davis is joined by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

Davis’ flight from the awards show and Super Bowl XLIX the next night in Arizona won’t arrive back in Charlotte in time for Monday’s leadership academy meeting. On the rare occasions he is unable to attend, he typically shoots a video message for the kids.

“It would mean so much to us for him to win this, but we all think of him as Man of the Year already. We think everybody else is just now recognizing it,” Kelly Davis said. “Off the field, he’s always doing stuff, not only in the community but also within his family. He never gets any free time.

“Sometimes I just sit back in awe, thinking, ‘How can he be so strong? How can he do all the things that he does?’ On his days off with everything he does, I sometimes say, ‘Hey, you need to take a break.’ But he’s just always thinking about what he can do.”

Davis’ drive comes from many sources, among them his own challenging set of circumstances as a child in Shellman, Ga., as well as his appreciation for the opportunity that being a star NFL player now affords him.

But when it comes to the Thomas Davis Youth Leadership Academy, the signature outreach program that he and his wife started one year after founding the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation in 2008, Davis’ motivation is simple.

“If you see how these kids walk in for the first session to how they walk out after the last session, it’s night and day,” Davis said. “We enjoy every minute of this, getting to work with these kids.”

At least 16 Monday evenings in a typical school year, the same 25 Charlotte-area middle school students spend a couple of hours with the Davises and their fellow volunteer board members. This school year, their weekly meetings are at the Charlotte School of Law in uptown Charlotte.

Lisa Thaxton, executive assistant to the president at the law school, has a son in ninth grade at North Mecklenburg High School who is aging out of the academy.

“Darryl has really blossomed over the past couple of years,” Thaxton said. “He was kind of shy and timid, didn’t really like to speak up, but going to the academy has really helped him develop confidence in himself.

“He’s looked at Thomas as a role model in terms of what Thomas has been able to accomplish. My son is an athlete, too, so he really gravitates to what Thomas is saying when he talks about resilience and overcoming adversity.”

Darryl Thaxton said that interacting with someone as accomplished as Davis opened his eyes and ears to Davis’ message of responsibility and respect. Playing in the NFL has opened up an opportunity that isn’t lost on Davis, who once walked in Thaxton’s shoes.

“I didn’t have anyone in this capacity to help me out and show me the things I needed to know at this age,” Davis said. “It wasn’t until later on when I got around some high school football coaches that really showed me the way. I didn’t have a male figure at home growing up – it was my mom that taught me and my younger sister the things we needed to know, along with my grandmother.

“As NFL players, kids are listening to us. We have a voice, and it’s up to us how we use that voice. I’m trying to use my voice in a positive way by showing kids that I care about them and want to see them succeed. I’m taking time each Monday to be here with them. I genuinely care about them.”

Kelly Davis marvels at how her husband finds the energy to do all that he does.

“He’s 31,” she said, “but it’s like he has the mind and body of a 19-year-old.”

That could also apply to the Davis that Panthers fans have seen on the field the last three seasons.

Davis possesses the ultimate object lesson about resilience to share with the students in his leadership academy. After not one, not two, but three torn anterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee, Davis has played arguably the best football of his career since his remarkable return.

And he’s not done yet.

“By missing those years, I feel like I’ve added years to my career,” said Davis, fresh off his third consecutive 100-tackle season. “I’m excited, because the way my body feels now, I’m able to play fast and play at a high level. It’s truly been a blessing. I’m just trying to take advantage of every second I have left.”

While the Man of the Year Award primarily focuses on a player’s off-the-field contributions, on-the-field contributions are considered as well.

“This award means so much to me because it’s a community service award and also an award for what you’ve done on the field. It ties both of those together,” Davis said. “There is only one guy selected for this award each year. To say I was the Man of the Year would mean an awful lot to me.”

Davis doesn’t often promote himself for such honors, and in this case he did so only while mentioning what the award would mean to his fellow foundation leaders and the foundation itself.

“It means a lot to me and the Panthers organization, but it also means a lot to my board members. Those guys put in a lot of work to make everything we do possible, and it doesn’t go unnoticed,” Davis said. “This also raises awareness. Being nominated for the second year in a row, if we’re able to win the award this year, it will educate people more on what we’re doing and maybe make more people be willing to donate.

“The more money we have, the more we can do for these kids, and the bigger impact we can have on this community – Charlotte, Georgia, and South Carolina as well.”

Davis can only imagine how the kids in his leadership academy will respond if he wins. One student’s mother already knows how she’ll react.

“As a parent, it fills my heart with joy. As a citizen of Charlotte, it fills my heart with joy,” Lisa Thaxton said. “They’ve come to this city – it’s not their home – but they’ve embraced it, and the city has embraced them. To give back in the manner that they do, it’s wonderful.”

And that, regardless of what happens at “NFL Honors,”, is reward enough for Davis.

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