More than a year after losing her home as part of the devastating tornadoes that tore across the southeastern United States in April and May 2011, Markedia Wells was presented with a key to her new house Friday morning.
Wells, a resident of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and her family purchased their new home courtesy of Major League Baseball, the Players Trust, State Farm and Habitat for Humanity. Those four organizations will build homes for three more families in Tuscaloosa and five in Joplin, Mo., providing nine homes in total to the two communities most affected by the historic outbreak.
"This is what State Farm does, and MLB has been doing things like this for a long time now. It's inherent in both of our businesses and both of our brands, so I think the combination of that is what makes it so powerful," said Justin Reckamp of State Farm. "When they came to us, it was just a no-brainer. It's all about getting people to a better state.
"Even though it's been a year for Tuscaloosa and Joplin since the devastation, they're still healing. A lot of people lost their homes and lost loved ones. That healing really needs to take place one person, one family and one home at a time. We knew that we could be a part of that healing process, so that's why we jumped on board immediately."
Two of those homes will be framed in the parking lot of Kauffman Stadium during the All-Star Game festivities in Kansas City, as a reminder that no matter how much time has passed since the communities were struck by disaster, there's still work to be done.
MLB and the MLB Players Association responded to the tornadoes last summer by donating more than $200,000 toward relief efforts in the Midwest and Southeast, while also dedicating Game 7 of last year's World Series to those efforts. Friday, former Major Leaguers Lance Cormier and Brandon Medders were on hand in Tuscaloosa to present Wells with the key to a home furnished by Yankees reliever David Robertson.
"Major Leaguers have a long-standing history of helping their neighbors in need, and they are honored to join forces, through the Players Trust, with Major League Baseball, State Farm and Habitat for Humanity to provide some relief to victims of the devastating tornadoes of 2011," said Tim Slavin, MLBPA's director of business affairs, in a statement. "Given their experiences in responding to natural disasters around the world, the players and the Players Trust know how important it is to let others know that when the media exposure dies down, the needs in these locations do not go away."
"There's a long history of Hall of Famers in that region -- Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Hank Aaron," added Tom Brasuell, MLB's vice president of community affairs. "David Robertson is a great example of current players that come from there and their generosity."
State Farm had 35 agents in Joplin on June 2 to help with the first Habitat for Humanity home-building, trying to rally the community to help support those who lost their homes and more. The storms claimed more than 200 lives in Alabama alone.
"As we mark the anniversaries of the tornadoes that struck Tuscaloosa and Joplin, we are reminded that recovery is measured in years, not months," Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, said in a statement. "With these nine homes, Major League Baseball, the Players Trust and State Farm are joining this important effort to help families and communities recover. We are grateful for their partnership and commitment to Tuscaloosa and Joplin."
"We see that building strong neighborhoods is the backbone of a thriving community. This partnership allows us to build those strong communities," added Reckamp. "Whether it's immediately after, a year after or five years after, our agents and staff will still live and work in those communities that are hit. It doesn't matter the timing; we're going to be there to help rebuild and strengthen these communities."