How the Detroit Pistons ended the Season of Giving by surprising some holiday shoppers with needed grocery assistance

The Oak Park Kroger location hired two temporary cashiers to surprise holiday shoppers recently.

Detroit Pistons players Kevin Knox and Rodney McGruder, both dressed in the familiar blue Kroger apron, greeted shoppers for the final event of the franchise’s Season of Giving.

Legendary Pistons superstar Isiah Thomas, Knox and McGruder donated $2,000 each that was distributed as $100 gift cards for holiday shoppers as part of the Season of Giving program, which was sponsored by Kroger. The Pistons also paid for gas at the store’s gas station as part of team mascot Hooper’s Random Acts of Kindness initiative.

Pistons vice president of community and social responsibility Erika Swilley said giving back is part of the organization’s culture. Pistons owner Tom Gores called the Pistons a community asset when he purchased the team in 2011 and he also pledged the organization would be impactful in the community.

“Our team motto is to be impactful in our community,” Swilley said. “It’s ingrained into our company culture and all our players have big hearts and want to find ways to give back to the community where they play.”

Metro Detroit resident Lisa Donel Treadwell was shopping for groceries for her mother when she was greeted by the pleasant surprise.

“I think what the Pistons did today is very important because this is the time where people are really struggling because grocery prices are so high,” Treadwell said. “You’re making decisions between bills and groceries, so this was really nice.”

For Knox, who also bagged groceries and handed out gift cards, the community outreach created a great memory.

“It was cool giving people their groceries and seeing their reactions when we’d pay for it,” Knox said. “The whole Pistons organization is big on giving back.

“We do appearances all year long, so all the players love it.”

To kick-off the Season of Giving earlier this month, the Pistons donated winter clothing, basketballs and milk to five Detroit area schools. In addition to the winter gear giveaway, Cunningham, Bey and Kroger made additional contributions to students and staff at the five schools:

Kroger recognized teachers at all five schools with Kroger gift cards.

Cunningham donated $70,000 with $10,000 each split across the five Detroit schools as well as two schools in his hometown of Arlington, Texas to establish “Cade’s Care Closets.” The closets will provide toiletries, hygiene products and non-perishable snacks for students.

Bey donated more than $5,000 in gift cards that will be divided between staff members at each of the five Detroit schools.

Pistons coach Dwane Casey also had his annual Merry Casey Christmas event with children from the Pure Heart Foundation, a Detroit-based nonprofit that supports the children of the incarcerated community. “We hope that people are inspired by some of the giving back that we do and if they have the means to do so, give back as well.” Swilley said. “This is not just something we do during the holiday season, but we give back all year round.”

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