Manny Tockz comes to The Salvation Army not only for the football players but for the sense of community he finds sitting at the table.

Having spent years running with what he calls “the wrong crowd” and battling alcoholism, Manny, 71, is living at a downtown seniors' home in Toronto and seeing a social worker on a regular basis.

A huge Toronto Argonauts fan, he's been coming to The Salvation Army's Harbour Light Ministries for a decade to meet his favourite players during the annual Thanksgiving dinner.

Celebrating Together
“It's just to see the Argos, live up-front,” he said, reorganizing his plate of turkey, mashed potatoes and veggies. “I've been a fan for something like 51 years. I met this gentleman here beside me today. He's in the same boat I am. There are a couple other people I haven't seen for a while, and I see them here today.”

Last October, some 30 Toronto Argonaut players dished out more than 500 plates of food to people lined up outside the building. It was the 16th year The Salvation Army put on this event, which gives the less-fortunate a hot meal and a chance to meet their favourite sports heroes.

Argos offensive lineman Joe Eppele, manning the dessert station, said that attending the annual dinners and then going to his own family's Thanksgiving meal afterward is humbling.

“This is the biggest line I've seen to date, so it's nice to see the happy faces,” Joe said. “The most important thing is that without the community, there would be no such thing as professional sports. Every chance we have to give back, it's something we can all be active in.”

Quarterback Ricky Ray, in charge of the dinner rolls and the cranberry sauce, said he is overwhelmed by fan support.

“Everybody's pretty happy coming through the line and talking about the season,” Ricky said. “This is just an opportunity to smile and laugh with fans off the field.”

Major Elizabeth Price, executive director of the Harbour Light Ministries, said the Argonauts donated the food as well.

“We want people to enjoy being part of a celebration,” she said. “A lot of people don't have someone to celebrate Thanksgiving with and this is an opportunity for them to come together and be part of something festive, and enjoy a great meal.”

Reprinted from Toronto Sun, October 13, 2013

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