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Pittsburgh's Roethlisberger, McDonald appear to help with Convoy of Hope trucks

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Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be at training camp next week with the team.

On Wednesday, Roethlisberger was in Lawrence County to help give away food and supplies for up to 1,500 families at Shenango High School. The bi-weekly distribution was supplemented by Convoy of Hope, which provided a tractor-trailer load of food/supplies that was sponsored by Roethlisberger and his wife, Lawrence County native Ashley (Harlan) Roethlisberger. Ashley is a Laurel High graduate.

"This is where my wife is from obviously and this is why we're doing it," Roethlisberger said. "I love that we can give back to her community. She's my family and this is my community as well in a way.

"We're just glad that we can help in a small way at least."  

Jubilee Ministries International Nourishing Others Well-being Project along with The Christian Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania sponsored the drive-thru food giveaway Wednesday.

"When it's for a good cause, it's easy for people to be excited," Roethlisberger said. "I think in the climate that we're in right now, when we have moments like this, when people come and give and volunteer, all the people behind the scenes, the people that donated, Convoy of Hope, it's just great to be able to put a smile on people's faces and to do a little bit of good in this big world."

Each family received boxes containing fresh milk, quality dairy products, pre-made frozen meals for children under the age of 18 years of age, bags, and boxes of dry goods, and boxes of fresh produce. The boxes were loaded directly into the vehicles by the volunteers. Boxes were given away on a first-come, first-served basis.

"I hope it's more about this and what they're getting," Roethlisberger said. "I walked down the rows of cars earlier. It seemed like they were pretty excited to see a Steeler up here. I think it's cool."

Vance McDonald, a Steelers tight end, also was in attendance along with his wife, Kendi, to assist in the distribution.

"We (Vance and Kendi) got together with Ben and Ashley and told them about Convoy a number of months back," Vance said. "The whole world went haywire with COVID. There's so many places that need help and things like that. Ashley took control.

"She's got stomping grounds here. She started organizing a truck to come here. It's just awesome. It's one of many trucks that we've helped to get to the area. My wife and I are putting roots down here near Pittsburgh. This is a great way for us to be able to give back to a place that we've fallen in love with. It's always really, really fun to hand out and distribute and see the reaction on people's faces."  

Contributors also included Marburger Dairy, Paragon Foods, Lawrence County Community Action Partnership and the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank.

Vance McDonald recognized the similarities between Lawrence County and the Pittsburgh area.

"We love that everyone is so genuine and down to earth," McDonald said. "Knowing that everyone just wants to put their best foot forward and help out their neighbor. That's the one thing that struck us right out of the gate about Pittsburgh and something that has really allowed us to just find it very comfortable for us to establish as our home base.

Pittsburgh's Roethlisberger, McDonald appear to help with Convoy of Hope trucks

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger helps unload goods during a food giveaway Wednesday at Shenango Elementary School.

"It's just really neat. Just being able to help out. You see the smiles on people's faces as you load up the cars. It's really cool."

Roethlisberger and Ashley have three children — Ben Jr., Baylee, and Bodie. The starting quarterback said the entire family continues to do well during the pandemic.

"Everyone has been good. We've been healthy," Roethlisberger said. "We do our best to social distance. When you have little kids, it's hard. They get worn out just staying at home, not doing much. We find creative ways to stay busy."

McDonald's family also has been getting along well since the pandemic broke out in March.

"Life on the farm has been great the last couple of months," said McDonald, who bought a farm in Ligonier Township. "It's interesting, you hear different perspectives and things about COVID and everything else. It's allowed a lot of times for families to get back and connect and spend a lot more time at home.

"It's definitely a learning curve and a challenge at one point for certain things. Being able to have that time to spend with loved ones and things like that has been terrific." 

Roethlisberger, who is 38, is battling back from an injury to his right elbow that cost him nearly all of the 2019 season. He suffered the injury in a 28-26 Week 2 home loss to Seattle last year.

"The elbow is doing great. I'm excited," Roethlisberger said. "I've been throwing and rehabbing it. It feels really good."

The pandemic has stripped away all of the usual offseason for teams. Gone are mini-camps and organized team activities (OTAs) which would allow rookies as well as veterans to get into the swing of things. It's expected the NFL will pull the plug on all preseason games as well, which would have come in handy for a player like Roethlisberger coming back from an injury.

"It's been tough," Roethlisberger said. "In a normal year, it wouldn't be so tough because it would be nice to take the break. But considering I missed all of last year I wish that I could be out there and being around the guys more. It's definitely been unusual.

"Typically, a preseason game, I would be OK not playing. This year, I was kind of looking forward to getting out to one or two of them at least. Not having that will definitely be different. I guess I will just have to be as ready to go as I can be Week 1."

McDonald is taking things as they are presented right now in terms of the NFL.

"I've been staying away from it because a lot of it is speculation," McDonald said of the future of the league. "Until a lot of it has been ironed out and figured out and organized, I'm just going to roll with it.

"I think a lot of things right now are up in the air and for good reason because you don't know what is going to happen. You just have to be ready and fluid and be mobile and be ready for anything. Any direction this thing takes. I hope we play 16 games. I hope we have playoffs and everything else. It's so far down the road. I'm just taking it at this point, (which is) training camp. I will not look past training camp until we make it through training camp. It's so up in the air and it is what it is."

Rookies reported for NFL training camps July 21, while quarterbacks and injured players will report Thursday. Veteran players are scheduled to report Tuesday.

Pittsburgh is set to open the 2020 season at 7:15 p.m. Sept. 14 at the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. The Steelers' first home game of the year is set for 1 p.m. Sept. 20 against Denver.

rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com

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