Dominating competition on the basketball court isn't the only thing Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph is known for. He's also gained a reputation for giving back.
Randolph recently took his philanthropy to another level with the launch of his community assistance fund, through which he'll help local residents and organizations in dire need of support.
"I come from a single-parent home — mother on welfare, barely [enough] food to eat. I remember us getting our lights and heat cut off. Mama would have to borrow money to pay the bill and do what she had to to get by," Randolph said. "That's why I started doing this."
Randolph initiated the community assistance fund with a $20,000 donation to the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA). MIFA is using the donation to pay utility bills for 100 homes on the verge of service disruption through its Plus-1 utility assistance program.
Cassie Taylor was behind several hundred dollars on her MLGW bills, and she received a notice that her utilities would be disconnected. Randolph's hefty donation paid her bill in full, and he even made a surprise visit to her house.
"When I came into my living room, he was standing there, and I liked to have fainted," Taylor said. "Eighty years old and didn't know where I was going to get the money from. It was a blessing. I didn't know how I was going to keep the utilities on."
Randolph selected MIFA to administer the fund, but he chooses which organizations will receive assistance. He's donated $20,000 annually to MIFA's Plus-1 Program for the past four years.
Sally Heinz, MIFA's executive director, said Randolph's donations help keep families in their homes. She said having utilities disconnected is the first step toward homelessness.
"A gift like this can make such a difference," Heinz said. "If we can provide that stability for a family, children can stay in their schools, and life works out so much better. I think it's just a wonderful example of Zach helping families with what are basic and simple, but really important, needs."
Randolph has made headlines in the past for his local philanthropy. He was honored by Kia Motors and the National Basketball Association last November, after he distributed 900 Thanksgiving food baskets at Booker T. Washington High School and Hamilton High School, gave families tickets to Grizzlies games, and contributed 300 winter coats to students at A.B. Hill Elementary.
Looking forward, Randolph plans to contribute gifts to a number of organizations annually on behalf of the community assistance fund. He also plans to host fund-raisers, providing others with the chance to donate and help support the city's less fortunate.
"It's for everyone in the community — single parent homes, abused women, kids in need," Randolph said. "God has blessed me in tremendous ways. It's a blessing for me to give back and help other individuals."