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Mission to help drives Royals all year

Mission to help drives Royals all year

KANSAS CITY -- At City Union Mission, Thanksgiving comes every day. The homeless and hopeless are given shelter, food and a new chance 365 days a year at the Kansas City institution.

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That's what draws Royals Hall of Famer Frank White and outfielder David DeJesus to City Union Mission each year to help serve a Thanksgiving feast. They are joined by Royals associates from every branch of the team, and the ballclub provides the meals.

"This is really part of my neighborhood where I grew up," White said. "I grew up about nine blocks south of here. Feeding the hungry, to me, is one of the simplest things that we can do in America. Feed and clothe people who need it, and City Union Mission does a great job -- not only of feeding the community, but they provide shelter for abused women and their families so there's some protection there. They really reach out to a vast group of people and help them have better lives."

White, joining in for the fourth year, helped serve about 100 at the Family Center. DeJesus, back for the third time, worked with about the same number at the Men's Center.

"It's fun to come out and just help any way possible, because these guys have gone to the depths of nothing and now they're starting to see some light," DeJesus said. "They're coming here and they're given opportunities, and hopefully, they can make the best of them. This is something pretty cool, and I hope I can keep bringing more and more people, because it's a good cause."

Dennis Chapman, director of development, said the Mission's guests look forward to the visits, especially because White and DeJesus are well-known faces from the Royals and their TV broadcasts.

"They look forward to the personalities, they see them on TV and things like that, so having David or Frank giving them encouragement during the holidays helps these guys look back to a more pleasant time in their lives," Chapman said.

"Fifty-two percent of the people we're seeing right now are first-time homeless. That number is astounding to us. People don't want to grow up or live at the Mission, it's something that circumstances force you into."

As Chapman noted, it's "not always the drinking and drugging," it's joblessness and economic hardships that often drive folks into the Mission's care. On many nights, there are more than 300 in the Men's Shelter and 100 in the Family Shelter.

Dan Doty, executive director of the Mission, said that organizations, businesses, foundations, churches or individuals are encouraged to contribute meals, as the Royals have, throughout the year. City Union Mission has an annual budget of nearly $7 million funded entirely by donations.

"Our name kind of throws people off. We're definitely not funded by the city or the state or federal government. We don't receive government funds at all," Doty said. "The vast majority of our funds comes from individuals, and the rest comes from some businesses and churches and foundations, but the vast majority comes from individuals."

If you or your group is interested, go to cityunionmission.org for more information.

Royals' club events

Royal Charities distributed more than $500,000 in grants to Kansas City area charities during the year, another busy one for the team's many community and charitable efforts. Among the club's initiatives in the community:

• Club president Dan Glass and his wife, Penny, were co-chairs of an on-field fundraiser, Diamond of Dreams, which raised $150,000 for Operation Breakthrough -- an endeavor that provides impoverished inner-city kids with day care, food, clothing and therapy in a safe, loving environment.

• The second annual Royals FanFest, featuring many of the Royals players -- present and past -- brought in $100,000 for charities.

• A golf tournament raised $25,000 for the Special Olympics.

• The inaugural 5K Run/Walk, which started outside Kauffman Stadium and ended at home plate, raised $20,000 for the Autism Alliance of Kansas City.

• "Shirts Off Their Backs," in which fans bought chances on players' jerseys worn in the Oct. 3 game, attracted $27,500 to benefit the Ronald McDonald House.

• The Willie Wilson Hall of Fame Classic, an old-timers' game held in conjunction with the opening of the Royals' Hall of Fame, brought in $10,000 for TeamSmile, which provides free dental screening and treatment for children.

• The first "Girls Night Out" promotion raised $12,000 for Susan G. Komen for the Cure in the battle against breast cancer.

• The second "Girls Night Out" raised more than $8,000 and benefited the American Heart Association.

• Online and stadium concourse auctions raised $25,000 throughout the year for Royals Charities.

Players' involvement

Royals players who participated in community programs included:

• Billy Butler, along with teammates Mike Aviles and Willie Bloomquist and their sponsors, donated a total of 286 tons of food to the food pantry at Bishop Sullivan Center's soup kitchen in their "Hit It a Ton" program based on home runs hit. Butler's wife, Katie, chaired the Royals Wives Food Drive.

• Zack Greinke made a $5,000 grant to the Boys & Girls Club of Kansas City, which was matched by Royals Charities. He donated his game-worn jersey from Jackie Robinson Day, which is being auctioned on Royals.com to benefit the RBI program.

• Mike Jacobs gave $9,500 to Operation Breakthrough by donating $500 for each home run he hit this season.

• John Buck's "Buckaroos" program brought foster kids to eight games, providing tickets, T-shirts and food vouchers.

• Jose Guillen's project, called "Guillen's Gamers," bought tickets for 30 underprivileged kids at each of the 68 games this year.

• Gil Meche and his wife, Stacy, were co-chairs of the Back to School Drive and hosted children, families and the elderly at games this season.

• Alex Gordon and his wife, Jamie, were co-chairs of the annual Royals Coat Drive, and they also helped at the Johnson County Christmas Bureau Holiday Shop.

• DeJesus is the spokesman for the Guadalupe Center, which serves the Latino community in Kansas City, chairman of the Royals Baseball Equipment Drive for youngsters and honorary chairman of Kansas City Ability Day for disabled persons.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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