July 10, 2018 | By Kyle Melnick, MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Former outfielder Justin Maxwell grew up in Olney, Md., attended the University of Maryland and played with the Nationals in 2007, '09 and '10. So Maxwell understands the poverty that plagues Washington, D.C., and feels it's important for all children to have resources to learn and safe spaces to play.
In February, the Nationals invited Maxwell to participate when planning an event with Major League Baseball and the So Others Might Eat (SOME) organization to offer housing to homeless people in the Washington, D.C., area, knowing the event would have deep meaning for Maxwell.
"To be a local kid, to see the Nationals give back to the community, it's awesome to be associated with this," Maxwell said. "I'm a father of three kids. It makes me appreciate everything my family has been blessed with. I'm just excited all the impact it has on kids and trying to give them opportunities. For them to call me, I felt honored to be a part of it."
Maxwell, who played parts of seven seasons in the Major Leagues, was in attendance for the ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday afternoon in the building SOME has named the Liz Donohue House, located at 1435 Spring Road NW in D.C. The unit, which is still under construction, will offer safe and affordable housing to 37 homeless and low-income families, including more than 100 children, in Washington D.C. MLB and the Nationals provided a teen room, playground, computer lab and community room for the project.
Tuesday's event was the first of six All-Star Legacy project dedications, which will continue throughout this week. MLB vice president of community affairs Tom Brasuell said the league searches for a way to make a lasting difference each year in the All-Star Game's host city.
"With nearly one in five residents of the greater Washington, D.C., area living at or near the poverty line," Brasuell said, "this is an issue that we don't want to just address, but to make a significant contribution."
Nationals owner and Dream Foundation chair Marla Lerner Tanenbaum said she and her family have been focused on making a difference in Washington, D.C., communities since gaining ownership of the Nationals' organization in 2006.
"Our goal is to make sure that every legacy project that we were privileged to create was going to make a real lasting difference," Lerner Tanenbaum said. "This facility and the rooms and features supported by Major League Baseball and the Nationals certainly achieve that goal."
SOME's support programs will be housed in these new areas and will allow resident children to safely play outside. Providing on-site programming for residents eliminates transportation barriers impacting participation, while parents will feel more confident their children will remain safe at their home.
Regina Jones, a SOME traditional housing program resident for the past 2 1/2 years, began crying 15 seconds into her speech Tuesday with her three children in attendance.
"I appreciate everything they've done for me and my children," Jones said, while wiping away tears. "Me and my family have come a long way."
SOME was founded in 1970, serving food to homeless people in Washington, D.C. Since then, SOME has expanded to include other services, such as healthcare and job training. In '89, SOME opened its first affordable housing program called the Shalom House, which now houses 94 people who were homeless in Washington, D.C. Father John Adams, SOME's president, said his organization will have created 784 affordable housing units when the Liz Donohue House is finished.
Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.