NEW ORLEANS -- Before heading to Spring Training, Marlon Anderson, LaTroy Hawkins and Chris Capuano returned to the Gulf Coast with a $1 million donation from the Major League Baseball Players Trust to help rebuild homes and lives in the hurricane-devastated region.

The gift to the Volunteers of America Rental Housing Development Fund on Monday was the largest individual financial contribution ever made by the players' collective charity.

This contribution will be used to develop affordable rental housing in the Gulf Coast region. Along with the players, executive director Don Fehr represented the MLBPA at the check presentation while New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin joined the ceremony.

"We haven't forgotten the needs of the people of New Orleans and the Gulf states," said Hawkins, who has made trips to the Gulf region several times in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. "We are committed to help them rebuild their homes and their lives, and we urge others to do the same."

The Gulf Rental Housing Development Fund is an important part of Volunteers of America's "Coming Back Home" initiative, whose goal is to create more than 1,000 affordable housing rental units for working families of New Orleans.

"This generous donation will be used for much-needed housing projects," said Volunteers of America's national president and CEO Charles Gould. "Volunteers of America had a significant presence in the Gulf region long before Hurricane Katrina hit. Now our assistance is needed here more than ever, with so many people relying on us for a broad range of services, including affordable housing."

Capuano recalled watching the devastation unfold on television news in 2005 and listening to pleas for help from Brewers teammate Ben Sheets, a Louisiana native. He said the plight of families in New Orleans resonated with players.

"We put funds together to help with the initial relief effort but, now, a year and a half later, you realize that so much more needs to be done in terms of rebuilding the infrastructure," Capuano said. "Tens of thousands of people are still homeless or living in emergency housing trailers. Families are separated.

"Housing seems to be one of the major issues, a basic need, so we as players wanted to make a difference and put our money where it would be needed most. We also wanted to draw some national attention to the issue to show that there's still a lot that needs to be done."

With 111 years of experience in helping people in need, Volunteers of America is one of the nation's largest nonprofit providers of quality housing for low- and moderate-income individuals and families. VOA is building high-quality, cost-effective rental apartments in New Orleans to replace those lost in the storms of 2005, enabling individuals and families to return to security and stability.

"Our partnership with Volunteers of America has really worked out well the past several years," Capuano said. "VOA has expertise in providing services, especially housing, so it seemed like a natural fit. We're confident that with their experience and expertise, the money will be put to good use and invested well."