LONG BEACH, Calif.-- Azusa pacific women’s basketball head coach T.J. Hardeman is no stranger to service. A former star on a missionary basketball team, Hardeman is a son of two missionaries, and has two brothers serving at Faith Academy in Manila, Philippines, where he went to school before his playing career at Westmont, and also a place that his parents devoted their lives to when he was just a child.
So it should be of no surprise that Hardeman is passing on his background in service to his team, which on Sunday, Sept. 15 dedicated its time to helping the less fortunate by preparing, cooking, and serving over 250 people at Friends Church in Long Beach.
While most other college kids use their weekend to work, catch up on studying, and let’s be honest, to sleep, the women’s basketball team opted to take part in a lengthy one-day endeavor that had a lasting impact.
The team got to Hardeman’s house early Sunday morning. On arrival they, each with her own task, cooked, cut, chopped, and cleaned to prepare for a feast for over hundreds of needy people in Long Beach later that day. The preparation took roughly three hours before they caravanned from Brea to Long Beach.
At Friend’s Church they single-handedly served 250 of the area’s less-fortunate patrons.
“It was crazy to see the level of desperation that they were in to get food. It took less than a half hour to serve it, it went really quick,” said sophomore guard Katie Powell.
Powell, who has done service projects with her church back in Oregon, said there was something different about doing it with her teammates.
“It was better because we were all working towards one goal, and it had nothing to do with basketball. I felt really fulfilled afterwards because we knew we helped as many people as we could,” she said.
Sophomore forward Emily Nordberg agreed.
“It was great. I think teams should do more if it. It was really cool to see everyone away from basketball and build friendships off the court,” said Nordberg.
But while the food was essential, it was hardly what the women will remember.
“It was mostly about listening to someone. Even though the food is important, it was just as important for them to have someone to talk to and be with,” said Nordberg.
“I have never served food to people like that before. I’ve worked in a food bank, but I’ve never prepared a meal and actually served people,” said junior Annie Fredrickson.
The impact was contagious. Soon after the food was gone, which was almost instantaneous, the women all jumped into conversations with people who were in desperate need of an ear. And in impressive fashion everyone bought it.
“It’s important to see how blessed we are, and see the other side of it,” said Nordberg. “We all jumped in and did it. It could be intimidating but we all dove into it and I think everyone really made a difference.”
And while the point of the day was to serve others, many of the players came back feeling like they were the winners.
“I’m glad we did it for them, but it blessed us to serve and talk to them. I think we all benefited from doing it and I hope we do it again,” said Powell.
The day also helped to bond a team that welcomes five new players for the 2012-13 season.
“It was really good for us to bond and serve together. It made it really easy to bond despite our differences. There’s just something about serving together that makes people get closer,” said Fredrickson.