By ELENA DURNBAUGH
The Rochester Adams varsity football team takes to the field Friday night for their season home-opener against Rochester High. But before the season officially gets underway, the team took time to be game-changers by volunteering at a non-profit organization in Detroit.
Forty-six athletes, four coaches, and a parent volunteer from the Rochester Adams football program donated their time at Cass Community Social Services last Saturday to work on the organization’s Tiny Homes project.
“We loaded up the school bus and went down there, and we did three hours of labor,” varsity Coach Tony Patritto said. “We moved furniture into apartments and houses, and cleared yard work to get ready to lay sod, and did all kinds of really great things to help that program.”
Every year, the varsity team begins its season with a volunteer project. In the past, the team has volunteered for Forgotten harvest and the Yellow Ribbon Fund.
“I think it’s a really important part of the development of our program and our young men, to see that it’s important to give back as an augmentation to what we do with our sport of football,” Patritto said.
The Tiny Homes project is one branch of Cass Community Social Services, a Detroit based non-profit that works to provide food, housing, healthcare, and jobs for people in need. The organization was officially founded in 2002, but many of its programs started as part of the Cass Community Methodist Church during the Depression.
The organization started constructing Time Homes in 2016. So far, 19 brightly-colored houses ranging from approximately 250-square-feet to 400-square-feet have been built in a neighborhood in northwest Detroit. The homes are valued between $40,000 – $50,000, and the people who rent them are formerly homeless, formerly incarcerated, senior citizens, or young adults who have aged out of foster care. Most residents make between $7,000-$15,000 a year and initially rent the homes for $1 per square foot, per month. After seven years of timely rent payments and program participation, residents own their homes and property.
Rev. Faith Fowler leads the Tiny Homes project and said the program’s long-term focus is what makes it different.
“It’s not only residential stability for people, but it’s economic mobility because they’ll own the homes, an that’s what makes this program unique,’ Fowler said.
During the first phase of the Tiny Homes project, Cass is constructing 25 homes for individuals and couples. As part of the second phase, the organization will build ADA compliant homes and houses more suitable for families. Cass also plans to develop the commercial strip in the neighborhood.
“This is a neighborhood where there are 300 vacant homes within a mile of here, so to have this kind of focus and development on this particular space is really good,” Fowler said. “It’s huge because people have been living in this city for decades and haven’t seen their neighborhoods improved.”
The Rochester Adams football team got involved with Tiny Homes through Ryan Farris, the father of senior quarterback Carter Farris. Ryan Farris heard about the organization through his work and thought it could be a great opportunity for the team.
“We were just really moved with what they’re doing with the tiny house movement and the impact that they’re making on the local community and thought it would be a great opportunity to partner with them,” Farris said.
The volunteer work was a good way for kids to gain an appreciation for what they have, Farris said, and lend a helping hand to people who are less fortunate.
“There was a sense of excitement around it,” he said. “Like, ‘This is really cool,’ like, ‘These are legitimately cool little houses.’ It’s a great little neighborhood. I think they were impressed by what they were seeing and what they were doing.”
Patritto said that he has his team volunteer because he wants to teach his athletes more than the rules of the game on the field.
“I’m biased as a football coach, but I think it’s the greatest sport because we’re teaching life lessons: overcoming adversity, and selflessness, and being part of a team, being part of something bigger than yourself,” he said. “this kind of thing parallels what we’re trying to teach on and off the field.”
According to Patritto, this volunteer work was especially impactful for his athletes.
“The big deal is, for kids in Rochester Hills, sometimes we live in a little, kind of, very special place where everything is pretty awesome. These kids are very blessed to have great families and great situations, and it’s important, I think, for them to see how other things go in other places, and to see that a lot of people are giving back,” Patritto said.
“If they get used to that at a young age, we’re hoping that as they get older that will become a part of their life as well.”
The team worked hard on Saturday to help prepare Tine Homes for future residents.
“They were 110% engaged,” Farris said.
Fowler said Cass Community Services was grateful to have the team’s help.
“They were energetic and strong, and willing to do some manual labor that would have taken us forever,” she said.
The extra help came just in time to prepare Tiny HOme for its Labor Day weekend tours. Cass Community Services is offering tours of the newest tiny homes August 30 through September 1 as part of a fundraiser to build more homes.
To learn more about the Tiny Homes project, purchase tickets for the Tiny Homes Tour, or sign up to volunteer, visit casscommunity.org/tinyhomes.
Patritto said the volunteer work was a great experience for his team ahead of what he hopes will be a great season, his 17th coaching at Rochester Adams.
“There’s great teams and our entire conference is loaded. We have to improve and be competitive each week, and we’re hoping we can do that.”
The varsity team begins its season this Friday, Agust 30. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Rochester Adams High School.
To see the football team’s season schedule, go to adamshighlanders.com.