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Howard providing a taste of love!
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

When Howard School junior Marquez Williams was asked Tuesday morning about his favorite part of Thanksgiving, he instantly thought of his grandmother Angela Bush's most coveted dessert.

"Her sweet potato pie," Williams said. "When you eat it, it just warms up your heart. You can taste the love from the very first bite."

What Williams, his football teammates, the school's cheerleaders and numerous coaches and school boosters — including former NFL veteran Terdell Sands — will do today between 1 and 3 p.m. in the lobby outside the school's gym should warm everyone's heart, as well as providing a taste of love in every bite.

Concerned with its large number of needy neighbors, Howard is hosting a free Thanksgiving dinner at that time for all those who walk through the door.

"We're going to feed the needy in our neighborhood from 1 to 3, or until the food runs out, and a lot of people have donated food. The kids are going to be servers. Our kids need to understand what's going on out there. This is all about their attitude and gratitude and how so many people right around this school are having a tough time these days."

Starr's part includes not only helping Sands organize the massive luncheon but also smoking numerous turkeys for the event.

"I've already finished eight," he said Tuesday. "I'll probably do at least five or six more."

And if you don't like turkey, Starr said that the meats table alone will also include chicken and ham. Then there's the vegetables table with a variety including turnip greens and collard greens, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and his mother's famous sweet potato souffle.

"Coach Starr's a really good cook," said Sands, who added, when told the souffle was Starr's mom's recipe, "I need to kiss her. Those sweet potatoes are amazing."

Finally, but certainly not least, there's the dessert table.

"That will be the biggest table there," Starr said. "We'll have pumpkin pies, sweet potato pies, pecan pies, red velvet cake — everything you can imagine. I don't know if banana pudding is considered a Thanksgiving dessert, but we're going to have plenty of that, too."

Sands graduated from Howard, played football at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and spent nine seasons in the NFL, 2001 to 2009. Now an assistant football coach with the Hustlin' Tigers, he said of his reason for the school's football team hosting this luncheon: "It's a chance to show our players how blessed and fortunate they are, that however much they're struggling, there are plenty of folks worse off."

So they've all gotten together — Coach Starr, his staff and his team, the cheerleaders, members of the community and Eugene Banks' fledging Powers To Be foundation — to do something nice for those less fortunate on Chattanooga's Southside.

Or as cheerleader Janazye Reed, who lives around the corner from the Market Street campus, said, "It's great to see our school come together to help people."

This already has been quite a year for Howard. Close to $80,000 donated to build a new baseball field, thanks in part to a wonderful column written by this newspaper's David Cook. More donations to buy much-needed football equipment for Coach Starr's Tigers. The continued support of the Lookout Mountain Conservancy to teach Howard's students better classroom habits and life skills.

"The people in this community have been so supportive of us," Starr said. "I've never seen a place where people have done so much for others. That's part of why we want our kids to work at this event, so they can really see how much others are doing for them."

He then added, "We might not all have the money to make a difference, but we all have the time."

One of those Hustlin' Tigers giving of his time will be Davontay Smith, who hasn't gone to Howard for long but certainly long enough to see changes for the better.

"Everything was dysfunctional when I first came here," he said. "But not now. Just the fact that we're all coming together to do something positive for a lot of folks who have a lot of bad things in their life every day. You can see our school and community getting better, piece by piece."

And if the neighborhood's neediest get to the Howard gym lobby early enough today, they just might get a piece of Angela Bush's sweet potato pie. Not that they should need it to warm their hearts or taste the love of those serving them.


Howard quarterback Marquez Williams carries the ball during...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

"It's a community service project," said football coach John Starr, who has improved the attitude and atmosphere as much off the field at the inner-city school as he has the football program on the field during his two full seasons there.

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