On a crisp Saturday morning, Houston Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. happily posed for photos, shook hands, and passed out free turkeys to needy locals at the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Greater Houston headquarters near downtown. In all, some 150 turkeys were delivered to families who otherwise would’ve missed out on a Thanksgiving main course.
“We’re glad to hand these out to people who work hard — they deserve a stress-free holiday,” McCullers told CultureMap at the event. “I consider myself a Houstonian. I’ve lived here for four years. My daughter is about to be born here. This city has embraced me and my family — everywhere we go, people couldn’t be more gracious to us.”
Hoping to give back ahead of Thanksgiving, McCullers approached Big Brothers Big Sisters about lining up families who otherwise might not afford the single biggest expense on the traditional Thanksgiving dinner table: the turkey.
According to a 2018 study by the United States Department of Agriculture, 14.3 million Americans were food insecure throughout the year, a situation made all the more dire on a local level when the Houston Food Bank was forced to throw out nearly two million pounds of food worth $3 million, contaminated from an ammonia leak in one of its coolers. The turkeys were provided by ThrIVe Drip Spa.
For McCullers, the giveaway is all part of his belief in paying it forward, no matter how grand or modest the gesture. “People have a lot of things going on in their lives — work, family, stresses,” he said. “You’d be surprised what a little can do. People really appreciate a little effort: hold the door for someone or just ask, 'Hey, how are you doing today,' smile at somebody — just give a little bit of grace.”
McCullers has had a busy offseason, between rehabbing his elbow after Tommy John surgery and working with his Lance McCullers, Jr. Foundation, which raises funds and aid for homeless animals and partners with local groups such as Rescued Pets Movement and Houston Pet Set. Working with Big Brothers Big Sisters Greater Houston, for McCullers, is a chance to help local kids who need a positive presence in their lives.
“This means a lot to me, because I got where I am today partly because of my talent, because of my faith and belief in God, and because of my family and mentors I had along the way,” he said. “A lot of these families have two busy, working parents, or, it’s a single mother working to make ends meet. A lot of times, these kids don’t have that big presence in the home. And a lot of times, kids respond more positively to non-family mentors — especially someone they look up to. So it’s great to help these families and mentor these kids and give them the best platform to succeed.”