Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney



Nov. 26, 2004

THANKSGIVING IN PALM BEACH COUNTY

There are not many areas in the country wealthier than Palm Beach County, Florida. From Jupiter Island, to the island of Palm Beach, and south to the beaches of Boca Raton, the ocean rushes to the luxury of beaches lined with multi million dollar homes and condominiums by the shore. As you travel west, and then north, you pass by lavish gated communities and polo fields. The remaining farms you encounter provide fruits, vegetables and plants of all types to fill the needs of those here and around the country.

St. Jude Catholic Church is one of the many places of worship and civic foundations, that make an effort at holidays to provide for those in need.

Today five Florida Atlantic baseball players and my two little kids, joined me in helping the St. Jude Thanksgiving food delivery. We were informed that most of the meals would be delivered to those who were homebound and normally serviced by Meals On Wheels. My late mother was a recipient for years of that fine social service, and took great delight whenever the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Rarons baseball players helped in making deliveries. The program doesn't run on holidays, however, so people like St. Jude's try to fill the void.

When the organizers heard there would be five college baseball players volunteering, they had a special delivery in mind.

I was told we would be going to "In The Pines" in Delray Beach. The woman in charge was happy to have us because this location was "a little rough, and some families with small children helping, might not want to go there."

I'm thankful that my young children and players were chosen to go there.

The directions took us norhtwest of the glitter of Boca and downtown Delray. The Polo Club and other similar enclaves of the rich and fortunate surrounded us. We had dinners for thirteen people in our hands, and I was proud of Jordan Hafer for not eating any on the way.

Suddenly on my left was a small wooden sign, "In The Pines". I missed the turn. It was nothing but an old dirt road with an empty dilapidated barn. We hung a u-turn and entered another world.

The dirt road led us to what looked like an old run down motel, like you see on highways abandoned years after an interstate came through.In front of each door, people were living their lives . Men were working on cars, the women were holding young ones, little kids were playing in a grass lot with a rusted swing set and jungle gym.

It was Thanksgiving in a part of Palm Beach county rarely seen by our players.

Apartments 7, 8, and 9 were our responsibility.

The front doors were open, but long curtains hung down to help keep out the dirt and insects. There didn't seem to be air conditioning. Maggie and Luke smiled at the little ones happy to be receiving a good meal. Everyone smiled and was very appreciative. I know I was startled to see such conditions. I guess I am naive. It was a feeling that I could sense from our guys and my children.

These are the people that put food on our tables, cut our lawns, clean our homes and offices, and are at the mercy of the kindness of strangers for a decent meal on a day where we commemorate the New World of plenty that our forefathers encountered.

How many industrial farms, nurseries and lanscapers live in the luxury of Palm Beach County on the backs of these people we met today?

Where does Mr. Calderon take his youngest child when she's sick? Who pays for Mr. Lopez's daughter's school clothes? Do any of these people have IRA's or health insurance?

That is the big lie of the United States. Sure, we are the biggest, strongest, wealthiest nation on earth; but can't we do more? These are hard working people who are doing the jobs that American citizens snub. The pay is lousy, there are no benefits or retirement, and who cares how the worker has to live? Why can't we do better?

So, on a day where all families are reminded of the good and bad in their lives, and we all give thanks for what we have, let's not forget the people in that shadow world that help make our lives what they are.

My thanks to Jordan Hafer, Alex Silversmith, Mickey Storey, Danny Terpak, and Jason Doherty, who gave up part of their Thanksgiving to help some strangers.

I bet they got as much as they gave. KC

 

 

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