Dirk Nowitzki Helps Kick off Fall Food Drive, Unveils Gardening Program

Dirk, Jessica and Volunteers at the Center Table Fall Harvest
Dirk, Jessica and Volunteers at the Center Table Fall Harvest

Story and Photos by Dorothy J. Gentry
Sports Editor

Dirk Nowitzki retired as the face of the Dallas Mavericks franchise in March 2019. 

Over a year and a half later, he is still giving back to the city.

The former Dallas Mavs great surprised families on October 22 as he passed out food boxes and vouchers for complimentary turkeys from Pappas and shared details about a new Plants and Paints program that teaches kids about farm to table nutrition science and healthy eating.

The Dirk Nowitzki Foundation, The Mark Cuban Foundation, The Heroes Foundation and the North Texas Food Bank teamed up to host the Center Table Fall Harvest at the Mark Cuban Heroes Basketball Center. Nowitzki, his wife Jessica and volunteers from the food bank and the different foundation handed out food boxes to 425 families during the drive-up event In addition, Pappas Restaurants provided vouchers for a complimentary turkey for each family,

The event was free and open to residents in the Center’s surrounding neighborhoods off of Bonnie View and Illinois. Kicking off the holidays, Center Table Fall Harvest will continue in November and December.

“We are here for another food drive. We did one in May for Mothers’ Day and we see that the need is still there, unfortunately,” Nowitzki said.  “These are very tough times. These are stressful times for lots of families with jobs and so on and even more so if you don’t know where your next meal is coming from and that’s heartbreaking. 

“We want to help out as much as we can,” he continued. “We are just trying to do our part and help out this community that has been great to the Mark Cuban Center here. This is our way of supporting and saying thanks.”

Nowitzki also announced a new program at the Center called “Plants and Paints” where children and families not only learn to create and grow gardens, but experience entrepreneurship and philanthropy. The children also engage by creatively painting the planter boxes. Once harvested, they will set up a farmer’s market and give away the foods and flowers to neighborhood families.

Dirk, Zihair and Zamyad / Photo by Dorothy J. Gentry
Mark Cuban Heroes Basketball Center/ Photo by Dorothy J. Gentry

Located in the new Cuban Center Organic Garden, the “Plants and Paints” program allows kids to have fun outdoors while socially distancing. The Cuban Center will offer the plant and paint class starting  next week and continuing through next  summer. 

“I’m really excited to help grow the plants and paints program that teaches kids about nutrition, science and the process of farm to table,” Nowitzki said. “The kids have even been able to host a farmers market here at the Center where they give away veggies, herbs and flowers to families in the neighborhood. We look forward to expanding, getting more kids involved and holding even more farmers markets throughout the season.” 

The garden area currently houses a dozen or so plantar boxes with plans to add more in the coming months including raised boxes so nearly senior citizens can garden. The kids grow broccoli, celery, cabbage, beets, kale, carrots, peas, peppers, mustard greens and more.  

They also raise flowers, along with herbs including basil, rosemary, parsley and more. The young people work in the garden on the weekends while the Center staff water and maintain the gardens during the  week.

“I think it’s a great thing for the kids to learn about fruits and vegetables and how to plant them, when to harvest them,” Nowitzki said. “And they are going to learn some business ideas as well later on. We are in the beginning stages and we have 10 boxes as of now and it’s going so well. The kids are loving it. 

“It’s good to teach the kids about nutrition about eating healthy and about learning to take care of themselves. It’s a great project.”

In addition to the neighborhood families, the program also involves students age 10-17 from the UNT Dallas Rising Blazers Community Youth Development Program.