By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Lifelong friends GiveBack2God
NBA Coach of the Year Scott Brooks, left, and lifelong friend Mike Kooyman, co-founders of GiveBack2God, a hunger-relief organization that has been helping food banks including Second Harvest in Manteca. The two are shown in a graduation picture taken by Dale Johnson of the now-defunct Johnson Studio. - photo by Photo Contributed
LATHROP – A few years ago, during his days as a professional basketball player and before he was catapulted to coach in the big leagues, Lathrop native Scott Brooks returned to his alma mater to conduct basketball clinics for area youth.

He did that for a number of years during the summer, despite his hectic schedule. Scores of elementary school children not only had the unique opportunity of getting up close and personal with an NBA professional basketball player – and a local son, at that. They also had the thrilling experience of playing basketball in the very same Dalben Center at East Union High School where Brooks spent countless hours while being a Lancer.

Today, the 2010 NBA Coach of the Year and current head coach of NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder has turned his philanthropic attention to hunger relief nationwide under the auspices of a 501-c-3 nonprofit organization that he and childhood friend Mike Kooyman launched in December 2009. That charitable venture, which they called GiveBack2God, made its first donation of 400,000 individually wrapped servings of almonds to the Los Angeles Food Bank. In a short period of time, that effort has gone through a phenomenal growth. Currently, GiveBack2God is distributing in excess of 2 million servings of almonds every month to other non-profit disaster relief organizations and food banks abroad and throughout the country including Manteca’s very own Second Harvest Food Bank, said GiveBack2God executive director Robert Mees in a telephone interview.

 Barely a month after making the initial donation to the L.A. Food Bank, they started distributing the almonds around the county, Mees said.

“We pretty much delivered the almonds to every food bank in California,” he added.

Why almonds?

Explained Mees, “Traditionally, most child hunger relief efforts do not address the nutritional needs of their target population with almonds because of their cost. Most food banks measure success in pounds of food served and numbers of people fed, not the nutritional value delivered. Currently, the nutrition available in almonds is an unmet need. Ounce for ounce, almonds are one of the most nutrient-rich tree nuts on earth, and just a handful of almonds a day is a great way to ensure that kids are getting more of the good things their bodies need.

“California almonds are an excellent source of Vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, and a good source of fiber, copper, phosphorous, and riboflavin. Almonds are a petite package packing a powerful punch that helps meet the need of children for better nutrition.”

Inspiration from God Almighty
“God Almighty” is the inspiration behind GiveBack2God, explained Kooyman, a member of a multi-generational almond farming family in Manteca and owner of the San Dimas, Calif.-based Madi K’s which processes a whole slew of almond products but primarily candied almonds.

“I’ve been blessed, so this is just to return some of the blessings I’ve received to the less fortunate,” said Kooyman who worshipped at the old Calvary Baptist Church on Button Avenue while living in Manteca.

Brooks feels the same way, Kooyman said of his lifelong friend.

“He appreciates everything that he has, and he feels blessed that he’s had the opportunity” to realize his dreams in life, Kooyman said in a telephone interview last week.

“That’s part of the reason why he joined the (GiveBack2God) board,” said Kooyman of his fellow founding board member.

He described his good friend as “a very down to earth and humble individual.”

A telephone call to Brooks at his office with the Oklahoma City Thunder was not immediately returned.

While thousands of miles separate them, the two friends manage to keep in touch on a regular basis, thanks to the convenience of modern-day technology of text messaging and cell phones. They communicate by cell or text at least once a week. Now both married with families, they also manage to get together two or three times a year, said Kooyman, an entrepreneur and a principal of several companies in California.

Amazing friendship goes
back to kindergarten
The Brooks-Kooyman friendship is a story all its own.

“We went to kindergarten together in French Camp, but I’m a Manteca boy,” Kooyman said with pride.

He attended French Camp School “because I was way out in the country on an almond ranch,” he explained.

“From kindergarten to first grade, we were buddies,” he said.

After that, Brooks “ended up going to Ripon, but over time we never quit being buddies. So I’ve known Scott for 40 years.”

But it was during their four years as Lancers at East Union that they “really became fast friends; we were inseparable,” said Kooyman who was an All Star football player and played football all of his four years in high school while his friend carved his niche in basketball.

During their senior year, Brooks worked for the Kooymans in their almond orchards, doing side jobs such as driving tractors.

After high school, Kooyman went to San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton for two years, and from there, “I went to work,” he said.

“I’m from the old school. I got everything from the school of hard knocks,” Kooyman said with a laugh.

His parents – father, Casey, who was a medical technologist, had his own office in Manteca, while his mom, Phyllis was the children’s “taxi driver, grocery shopper,” a stay-at-home mom – now live in Hickman.

Brooks, on the other hand, started his collegiate career at Texas Christian University, then transferred to San Joaquin Delta College for his second season. His final two years were spent at the University of California, Irvine where he averaged 23.8 points per game as a senior, according to information provided by Mees.

Brooks’ playing career in the NBA spanned 11 years – from 1988 to 1999 – with Philadelphia, Minnesota, Dallas, New York, Cleveland, and the Los Angeles Clippers. He was also a member of the 1993-94 NBA Champion Houston Rockets.

He started his NBA coaching career with the Denver Nuggets as assistant coach under George Karl from 2003-06. Before he joined the Thunder organization, he was named assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings during the 2006-07 season.

Recently, the Lathrop City Council honored Brooks by naming the gym in the Lathrop Community Center the Scott Brooks Gym. It was at this gym where Brooks spent countless hours practicing the game that would later make him world-famous.

The Inderbitzin
Kooyman visits Manteca, or at least, goes through Manteca about once a month. Part of the reason for his visits is a “very good dear friend” named Rick Inderbitzin, another old friend from high school.

“All three of us were best friends,” said Kooyman of the East Union teacher and, until most recently, a longtime football coach.

After Inderbitzin’s son graduated from high school last year, “I decided it was time to spend more time with my three young girls,” said the Ripon resident.

Cementing the three men’s friendship is another philanthropic program that they hatched about a decade ago. It’s simply called the BIK Endowment. The letters stand for the first letters in their surnames – Brooks, Inderbitzin, Kooyman. The endowment is entirely funded by the three friends which awards $2,000 in scholarships to deserving high school students every year. The amount of the scholarships awarded depends on how many students apply for it, “who applies and who’s got the need,” explained Inderbitzin.

Community service, academics, and of course, athletics are other factors that are considered in the scholarship applications.

It was Kooyman who came up with the idea of the foundation, said Inderbitzin who, like his friends, “drove my share of tractors and did a lot of eating dirt” in the orchards. His parents, John and Joanne, are now both retired, but his dad “still farms a few acres,” although his time is now consumed with “restoring cars, taking care of grandkids and going to ball games.”

Incidentally, when Brooks held his basketball clinics at East Union for area kids, Inderbitzin was one of his volunteer helpers. He and Brooks played basketball together in high school.

“But his drive, determination and hard work – he had that in him to be successful, and everywhere he’s gone he’s proven that. I was very proud of him when he was named Coach of the Year,” Inderbitzin said.

He called Brooks “a very giving person, driven, same as Mike. They are quality people who care about what’s going on.”

He added, “They’re kind of behind-the-scenes people,” and many don’t even know half the things that they do, like GiveBack2God.

“They just try to get the job done,” Inderbitzin said.

For more information about GiveBack2God, log on to where you can also click on the link to Madi K’s.