DETROIT (WXYZ) - Nearly every day in the news, we hear another story of violence, whether an officer has been shot, or another black man has been gunned down in the streets.
This week's Person of the Week is on a mission to change the narrative by giving kids and adults in Detroit a safe haven from the streets, but the road to what she calls a field of dreams has been a rough one.
If you walk through the Robert Tindal Recreation Center on 7 Mile Road in Detroit, you will see where the ceilings used to be caved in and a gym floor that used to float in four inches of water.
It may not look like much now, but what used to be a building in ruins has come back to life thanks to Maria Adams-Lawton.
Lawton became Tindal's Executive Director after 25 years as a Detroit Public School's Math Teacher at Go Lightly in Detroit. Her new title came after retiring from teaching and launching her own afterschool program called Healthy Kidz Incorporated at area schools and community centers to fill the void for canceled sports programs at schools.
Maria Adams-Lawton says,"the kids didn't have any outlets, you've taken sports out of the schools, and you've closed all of the recreation centers."
Geraldine Jackson is a former Director with the Parks and Recreation Department for the Detroit. Now she mentors Lawton in the building where she got her start, and believes the center will help stabilize this community.
Keenan Smith started playing basketball for Lawton at age 5 and says she was always a mother figure for him and the reason this graduate from Saginaw Valley was always involved in sports. Now armed with a business degree in sports management, Keenan is working side by side with Lawton.
Lawton has helped thousands of kids just like Keenan. Then in 2008 a major health scare almost sidelined her program.
Maria Adams-Lawton says, "I didn't think I was going to make it, but with a lot of help from my family I made it. You see I had breast cancer."
Breast cancer alone was not enough to stop Lawton's determination. She recalled decades ago Detroit having recreation centers in every community as safe havens for kids when the streets offered nothing but heartache and trouble.
When asked, "Where would you be without Ms. Lawton in your life?", Talik Kendorck-Bey says, "The streets, growing up that's all I had, friends in the streets, drug trafficking, killing and everything."
Lawton says she always had her eye on Tindal with the belief she could make it rise again, and the city believed it too saying this could be the new home for her program.
Maria Adams-Lawton says, "We need a roof on the east side of the building, we have plumbing issues, so many of the pipes are gone."
Returning it to its glory has been challenging and expensive. Lawton says she almost wanted to give up, until a young man who was homeless came into her life and gave her hope.
Maria Adams-Lawton says, "His name is Talik and, when we walked in and I walked through, I said I did not want any parts of this, and he said we will help you do it."
Talik Kendorck-Bey was homeless three years ago. Lawton helped him get a job, a place to live and gave him a new sense of purpose.
Thanks to Ford Motor Company half the ceiling on the building has been replaced, there are new lights and a new gym floor, and a huge grassy area will soon be transformed into a field of dreams - including a new indoor practice field, outdoor football field, baseball field and basketball courts.
Lawton's mentor Geraldine Jackson, who use to work in Detroit's Parks and Recreation Department, says to help this center reopen will help stabilize a community and give children in the neighborhood the choice between groups who care and will help them succeed and gangs.
On November 4th there will be a grand reopening ceremony complete with a ribbon cutting and Mayor Mike Duggan is supposed to take part.
Bottom line, Lawton is making a transformational difference and that's why she has been chosen as our "Person of the Week".