Buckeyes Pay Forward at Manna Café
By Brandon Castel
“Seldom can we pay back… you can always pay forward.”
Those were the famous words of Woody Hayes – paraphrasing American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson – during his famous commencement speech at Ohio State back in 1986. It was one year before Hayes, the longtime coach of the Buckeyes, would pass from an apparent heart attack.
Frail and emotional, the 73-year-old Hayes called it the greatest day of his life; like his legacy, those words have carried on. They have inspired many more than just the students who crowded into St. John Arena back in March of ’86.
They are still inspiring to this day.
On Wednesday, the current Ohio State Buckeyes did a little paying forward of their own at the Manna Café inside the Broad Street United Methodist Church on Refugee Road.
Led by seniors Carlos Hyde, Jordan Hall, Chris Fields, Drew Basil and Christian Bryant, there were 25 OSU football players volunteered to serve meals to those less fortunate – and on church’s fine china, too.
“Everybody is welcome at the Manna Café,” retired school teacher and café administrator Mary Cree told Ohio State.
“Some of these people have walked here from three miles away. Some are homeless. Others are in line to get an apartment. They come from all over the city and they really appreciate getting this meal.”
The group of football players, which also included underclassmen like Jeff Heuerman, Nick Vannett, Tyvis Powell, Warren Ball and running back Rod Smith, served food, collected plates and mingled with the 175 guests who made their way to the Manna Café on Wednesday evening.
Their meal included roast beef with onion gravy, cheesy potatoes, green beans with ham, along with assorted vegetables and desserts. The treat was getting to spend some time with a group of local celebrities.
“Tonight was certainly a special night for our guests,” said Martha Hicks, director of alumni relations for Ohio State’s College of Medicine who has been serving meals for 12 years.
“I really love it.”
Guests were so enthralled by the presence of the players, they didn’t want to get up and leave after they finished their meal. Either that, or it took them a lot longer to handle the large portions being handed out by the OSU football players.
According to Ohio State, it costs $300 to sponsor a meal and local companies and organizations have provided the donations and additional support for the meals since the café first opened. Even an Ohio State student organization – “Recipe 4 Good” – has sponsored a meal this year.
The Manna Café has served 110,000 meals for those less fortunate in Columbus, but this was a night people won’t soon forget. Neither will the players.
“Humbling experience to say the least feeding the homeless,” fifth-year senior Jamie Wood tweeted afterward.
Needless to say, Woody would have been proud.
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