"I have one son and I'm doing it for him," the elder Thomas said Sunday morning, holding his son, each of them wearing World Series caps. "There is work to be done. Anything they need, I'm willing to come and stand up. I'm living for him. Once I had him, it's like all-Thomas. I just can't wait till he gets in his own room, and he can get outta my room. I tell everybody that.
"It's a starting process as a father. I'm 30 years old, and I just want to show my son that I'm going to be there for him, from the beginning until I'm gone. And let him know that I established something for him, and after I'm gone, he can establish something to keep it going as a father. A lot of men out here, they don't stand up, they don't do it, but I'm gonna be the number one guy for my son, make sure that to the day I'm gone, he knows that 'my father loved me.'"
Major League Baseball, the Tigers, Habitat for Humanity and some inspiring Detroit community leaders are part of that love, a backdrop to this 108th Fall Classic. They are working with people like Hadden to rise above adversity, helping an entire Morningside Commons neighborhood to rise above a hard time in Detroit's history, because, as they say at Habitat, there is love in the mortar joints when you build together to house families in need.
"I'll be the first one out of my family to actually buy a house," Thomas Sr. said, standing in a kitchen of one of the homes that was built on a street filled with them, all destined for new owners like him. His house is just down on the corner, taking shape. "Just making something happen to say it's my own. You don't know how many people have your back unless you look."
MLB dedicated each of the first four games of this World Series to a different community initiative, using its greatest stage to raise awareness and involvement in important causes. In San Francisco, Game 1 focused on Stand Up To Cancer and Game 2 on Welcome Back Veterans. Here in Detroit, the Game 3 theme was youth, highlighting MLB's partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and Breaking Barriers programs, and Game 4 is community service and Habitat for Humanity.
Tom Brasuell, MLB vice president of community affairs, took a marker and signed a beam inside the garage of a Morningside home. It read: "Good luck in your new home from your friends at MLB." A homeowner will always have that.
"It's fantastic," Brasuell said. "To see the families come out today, the families who actually benefit from these houses, it's just really gratifying. We've worked with Habitat since 2005, we've helped build nearly 50 homes, and that's just a small piece of what our teams have done. Many of our clubs have already had existing relationships with Habitat's local affiliates, just like the Tigers have here with Habitat for Humanity Detroit, which is building this community here at Morningside, eventually affecting more than 500 families, a $25 million project."
To amplify Habitat's important cause, MLB has utilized its largest national stages -- the World Series and the All-Star Game -- to highlight the need for affordable housing and as physical locations on which new homes have been constructed. MLB first partnered with Habitat following the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, leveraging the first World Series in Houston as a platform to generate media attention, raise money and build homes in support of Habitat's mission.
This summer, MLB teamed up with the Players Trust and State Farm to use the All-Star Game in Kansas City to support the rebuilding effort in the Midwest and the Southeast, necessitated by the destruction of the tornadoes which touched down in those regions in the spring of last year. In all, MLB and the MLB Players Association have contributed to the construction of more than 40 new homes through the partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
In an on-field ceremony before Game 4, MLB presented a $10,000 donation to the Leaders to Rebuild Detroit Initiative, which is led by Habitat for Humanity Detroit to bring together local philanthropists and philanthropically minded corporations, associations and organizations.
"When we first came over to this community, it was a pretty stable area, except for about 16 square blocks," said Vincent Tilford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Detroit. "We made a commitment to this area. We said we're going to build 100 homes in a 16-square-block area. And to date we've built 93 homes in this area.
"But as we began building those homes, one of the things that happened in this community was the mortgage crisis, and it kind of swept through the rest of Morningside like a storm."
They regrouped with many community partners, including Detroit public schools, governmental entities, neighborhood organizations, the Tigers ... and developed a plan. While some new homes are being built together with families, many existing homes are being rehabbed. The goal is to "redensify" an area that was largely vacated as economic storm clouds opened and poured.
"Habitat for Humanity is a great partner of ours and we appreciate what they are doing in our community," said Elaine Lewis, vice president of public affairs and strategic planning for the Tigers, who came along with the mascot PAWS. "We're not here today just because it's the World Series, we support Habitat for Humanity every year, each season for the past several years."
Habitat's motto is giving families a hand, not a handout, so that the families contribute to their homes. They help build and help contribute financially, however they can, and Habitat teaches them life skills, how to maintain their homes, helping to build a bigger, stronger community. Hadden even gets up on the roof if needed, working to reach a required 250 sweat-equity hours.
"We believe that housing is central to the success of the family over the long term," said Karen Haycox, senior director of U.S. engagement for Habitat for Humanity International. "I liken it to a ripple in a pond. When a family is partnering with us to receive a home, their lives are changed and enhanced in ways that we can't predict, but we can certainly celebrate."
"Everything is appreciated. Habitat is a great program," Hadden said, a day closer to his dream. "There's nothing given to you. You work hard to get it. Thanks to the sponsors, we take classes like financial literacy, homebuyer classes, and we have to do 250 sweat-equity hours to get it done. ... I've been working and coming back and bringing people to help out because of the situation that I'm in."