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May 18, 2020

Sixers' Tobias Harris to offer mortgage assistance for Philadelphia families, lunches for healthcare workers, more

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21_Tobias_Harris_Sixers_76ersvsCeltics_KateFrese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Sixers forward Tobias Harris.

Sixers forward Tobias Harris committed Monday to provide mortgage assistance to 12 families in the Philadelphia area, provide lunches to healthcare workers at Temple University Hospital, and 20,000 children's books for at-home libraries being created during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Harris' bid to provide mortgage assistance comes through Habitat for Humanity, who has selected 12 families in North and West Philadelphia who have three months of mortgage payment assistance as a result of the donation. With debates ongoing locally and nationally about the merits of rent and mortgage freezing during the pandemic, the local families aided by Harris showed gratitude for his help.

"This is a huge blessing and means one less thing to worry about," said Sharon, a West Philadelphia mother with two sons in a Habitat home. "I’m grateful and this has eased my mind and my worries. It is so amazing that Tobias would be that generous."

On Tuesday, 250 healthcare workers at Temple University Hospital will receive Chick-Fil-A lunches, which Harris says is his way to say thank you to frontline workers during a trying time. Temple University Hospital was selected for its distinction as the local hospital caring for the largest number of COVID-19 patients in the city today.

“We’re experiencing one of the biggest crises in the history of humankind,” Harris said in a statement. “Being able to provide kindness to people putting their lives at risk in hospitals and supporting Philadelphia families in dire need of help is an important responsibility for me.”

Harris' final act of charity is an extension of his partnership with local campaign Read by 4th, a project organized by the Free Library of Philadelphia. As part of their effort to allow children to keep reading in remote learning settings, approximately 5,000 children will be provided books for their home libraries via partners of Read by 4th, including the Philadelphia Housing Auhtority, People's Emergency Center, and Action for Early Learning, a Drexel University initiative to provide educational support in west Philadelphia.

In addition to providing the books, Harris has plans in the works to host virtual versions of his "Tobias Lit Labs," where he will remotely participate in book readings, games, and social media activities in an effort to engage and assist local children.

"His personal commitment to reading and early literacy are just the fuel Philadelphia needed to boost our efforts. We know that having books in homes is a key ingredient to supporting children’s reading skills,” Jenny Bogoni, Executive Director of Read by 4th said in a statement. “We also know how much joy a new book can bring. In these uncertain and traumatic times, the best thing we can do for our children is provide them with joyful escapes and keep them connected to learning.”

Sixers players have been out of sight with the rest of the Philadelphia community during the pandemic, but many have stepped up to help where they can throughout the down period. Center Joel Embiid committed $500,000 COVID-19 relief efforts in late March, while other Sixers players, including Mike Scott last week, have provided meals to healthcare workers around the area during this trying time.

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