Francoeur a hit at Braves Turkey Drop

Francoeur a hit at Braves Turkey Drop

Jeff Francoeur has been among the Major League leaders in assists in each of his first two seasons with the Braves. On Monday afternoon, he added at least five more to his total, and, although they won't count in his official stats, these five might be among the sweetest. They certainly were among the best tasting.

Accompanied by his fiancée, Catie McCoy, and Braves mascot Homer, Francoeur delivered frozen turkeys and baskets of food to five families in the area surrounding Turner Field as part of the Atlanta Braves Foundation's Turkey Drop.

"It's been great to be able to be here and give back to the community," said Francoeur, who grew up in Lilburn, Ga. "The community has been so good to me and Catie, the whole team and the people that play here. All these homes are within a mile of the stadium, where I go to work every day. So it's a lot of fun to be able to be here with the fans who cheer us on every day. These are the ones who have stayed behind us from Day 1 and never left us."

"It's so important, because you realize how blessed you've been and how much you receive, and you get so much when you give unto others, so it's so important," McCoy said. "The community is so good to him and so good to the players and so good to the Braves. It's just so important to give back."

The joy of receiving went both ways. Each stop began with warm greetings and smiles from the charismatic outfielder and his effervescent fiancée, as well as the fun-loving Homer, and they were met by gracious smiles of appreciation from the families. Hugs and warm handshakes were exchanged, and genuine old-fashioned small talk ensued.

"This is a wonderful blessing, and we're very thankful today," said Tinnie Prather, who met the group with her granddaughter, Aliah, and grandson, Brandon. "I'm unemployed, I'm on a fixed income, so this is just a double blessing."

"I'm so thankful and grateful that the Braves came out this year to give us dinner for Thanksgiving," added Beulah Colbert. "That really helped my family out a whole lot, because this time of year, it's kind of hard when you have a big family to buy all the things you need to feed your family. It really means a whole lot to me. To have all the family around the table to tell jokes, talk about family and stuff makes it even more special."

The Georgia Avenue Food Cooperatives, which teamed up with the Braves to make the event possible, has made life easier for people for more than 15 years. It is run by the Georgia Avenue Ministries, located less than a mile from Turner Field. The Co-op began with 11 families in 1991, and now has four branches and serves some 200 families and about 800 people.

"I haul food in the truck for the Co-op and help them," said Colbert, whose old white truck is a legendary part of the Georgia Avenue Food Cooperatives. "I just love to help other people. Other people bless me and help me, and I like to help other people. That makes life more worth living."

"It's fun to see our families receive, and it's fun to have them have the joy of having Braves players come to their homes," said Chad Hale, a minister with Georgia Avenue Ministries and executive director of the Food Co-op. "It is special. All of our families and our ministry are right here in the shadow of the stadium. So it's great any time we reach out and connect."

The third annual Turkey Drop has certainly done its part to strengthen the Braves' community ties. Francoeur joins teammates Andruw Jones and Tim Hudson, who have reached out to neighborhood families and represented the Braves by delivering Thanksgiving meals in the past.

By the end of the drop, dark grey clouds had encroached on the sun and pushed the temperature down from comfortable high 40s toward more frigid high 30s. But as Francoeur signed a couple of final autographs, he had nothing but positive reflections on the day.

"It's just very humbling," he said. "It's a great time to be out here."

As rewarding was that he was able to share the joy he brought with family of his own.

"For [McCoy] to be able to get involved, I know she's really excited," he said. "We're going to be a family, and for her to be able to help and be behind me and support me is awesome."

"I love being a part of what he does," McCoy agreed. "This makes it 10 times more special because you see the families. I won't eat my Thanksgiving meal without thinking about these families."

For more information on the George Avenue Community Ministries and the Georgia Avenue Food Cooperatives, log onto www.gacm.org.

Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.