LAWRENCE — Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has quietly helped feed the city's hungry just by modeling a T-shirt that bears his name and number.
Sales of the T-shirt produced by Labels Are For Jars helps raise money for the Cor Unum Meal Center, the South Lawrence food kitchen that serves up about 200,000 meals a year.
Ortiz's wife, Tiffany, said she would love for 'Big Papi' to show up at Cor Unum some day to wait on tables for a good cause.
"His schedule right now doesn't permit him to do it — but maybe in the offseason," Tiffany said in an interview while serving meals at the center Wednesday night.
"I'd love for him to do it. This is such an incredible program. When you see firsthand families coming in, it makes you realize how lucky we all are," she said.
This was the second consecutive year that a small group of Red Sox wives organized by Bertha Lowell — wife of Red Sox star Mike Lowell — helped serve dinner to guests at Cor Unum.
The Lowells are friends of the Rev. Paul O'Brien, pastor at St. Patrick Church and a driving force behind the center.
"There's nothing more refreshing than a nice little reality check," Bertha Lowell said.
"So many times, you get caught up in your own life and don't know how good you got it until you take a walk in somebody else's shoes," she said.
Lowell and her husband are so committed to Cor Unum's noble cause that not even a trade by the Red Sox will end their involvement, she said.
"They're in this for the long haul," said O'Brien, who got to know Lowell and other Sox players well while working as the team's Catholic chaplain.
The center, which will celebrate its fourth anniversary Sept. 30, runs on an annual budget of $200,000 and a network of 600 volunteers who show up at least once a month and more active ones who put in several days a week.
"A bad economy has not dented what we do," said O'Brien.
"We continue to run this place for a dollar a meal. We are able to do this 365 days a year because of many people's (volunteers) sacrifices. ... It's great that we're a center of goodness for thousands of people in the community, particularly kids," he said.
Also serving Wednesday night's meal were Yuka Okajima, wife of Red Sox relief pitcher Hideki Okajima; Stacy Wakefield, wife of knuckle ball pitcher Tim Wakefield; and Holly Fisher, who is engaged to marry Josh Beckett.
"The meals they serve are better than what you get at the mess hall," said Thomas Foley, 51, of Lawrence, a veteran and frequent guest at Cor Unum.
A loyal Detroit Tigers fan who was born in the Motor City, Foley wore a Tiger T-shirt to the meal and took the opportunity to razz the Red Sox wives. But it was good-natured. After enjoying his meal, he thanked them personally for their efforts.
"We're all friends here," said volunteer Marisa Cerasuolo, who also is general manager of Residence Inn by Marriott in Andover.
"It's a nice experience. How can you not like Father Paul?"
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