December 18, 2009 9:54:00 AM
By Adam Minichino
The spirit of giving and the holiday season is alive and well with the Columbus High School boys basketball program.
In conjunction with the 13th annual Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Invitational, members of the Columbus High School boys basketball program Thursday handed out $200 worth of gift certificates for groceries at the Food Giant supermarket on Alabama Street in Columbus.
Columbus High coach Sammy Smith said the gifts are part of the community service his program does in association with the Joe Horne girls and boys basketball tournament, which begins today and runs through Saturday at Columbus High.
"You have to teach these guys that if you give it away it will come back and to be appreciative of what you have," Smith said. "Some people don''t have as much as everybody else, so if I can teach them some of that along with the basketball and being a good person, it all adds up.
"At the same time, it is the Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Classic, and that''s the type of person he was. He did things for other people, for me, and for these kids. They might not even know him, but we''re still doing it, and I think they have the concept behind what we''re doing. They love it and they''re learning how to give. That''s what it is all about."
Columbus High senior Michael Hall was one of the first Falcons to give away some of the money. He helped Mary Katherine Price, 80, of Columbus, unload her carriage, bag her groceries, and then take the items to her car.
"I know how hard it is coming from not exactly nothing but not having the most, so it means a lot," Hall said. "It feels better giving than receiving and to see the smiles on peoples'' faces as they take whatever you''re giving them and they''re being gracious for it."
Price was initially surprised by the offer of a gift certificate. She said this is the first time she has received help from a member of the Columbus High boys basketball program.
"I appreciate it," Price said. "It means a whole lot. I go shopping about twice a month, and I know what $20 is."
The annual basketball tournament, which features teams from across the state and region, is named in honor of Joe Horne, a longtime scorekeeper for Columbus High athletics, who died in 2003.
This is the second year in a row Columbus High boys basketball team members have worked with Food Giant to help people in the community.
Food Giant Manager Terry Brownlee said he was happy to offer some money from the store in addition to the money that the Columbus High boys program gave away. He said he is looking forward to working with the Falcons again next year and that he hopes to match the money the Falcons will give away.
"It shows they''re showing what Christmas is all about," Brownlee said. "Money is tight right now, but it seems like people are still wanting to have that special Christmas. It probably means a lot to the people they''re helping. The lady I checked out didn''t have a lot on her card, so it helped her get everything she needed."
Portions of the money raised at the Joe Horne tournament will go toward funding a scholarship for a Columbus High senior.
Tickets for the tournament are $6 for Friday and $7 for Saturday. There will be seven games played today and nine games played Saturday.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.