The recent opening of the Family First Community Center in Renton’s Benson/Cascade neighborhood marks a significant achievement for the city. The center, a result of collaboration between Doug Baldwin Jr’s Family First Community Foundation, the City of Renton, the Renton School District, and HealthPoint, serves as a safe and inclusive space for residents. This endeavor reflects the power of partnership and community engagement in creating valuable resources.
Doug Baldwin Jr., a former Seattle Seahawks, a Super Bowl Champion, and a two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, drew inspiration for the Family First Community Center from his personal experiences and observations of limited safe spaces for youth in the Seattle area. Recognizing the impact of community centers on the development of young individuals, Baldwin aimed to provide a similar resource for the youth in Renton. Having benefited from a local community center during his upbringing in Florida, he understood the importance of such facilities in nurturing personal growth.
“It’s a blessing it has been ten years in the making to bring this project to life, and we get to serve the community up there in Cascade and Benson Hill area. Those kids and those families who really didn’t [have] anything for a long time. So, it is just a blessing to be part of it and being able to bring this to life, said Baldwin at the Champions of Change All-Star Basketball Game in Seattle.
Baldwin praised the team involved in the center’s development, including Gary Barquet, the President of Operations, acknowledging their integrity and dedication to creating a culture of service within the community.
“Gary is a tremendous human being, and I obviously come from a sporting background, so I know the importance of a team. You gotta have the right elements of that. You gotta have the right character, integrity, and all the character traits of a good human being. Being able to build a culture that’s going to serve the community the way we want to serve it. Gary is a part of that. The whole team is tremendous. Nate Robinson [Executive Director of Family First Community Center] did a hell of a job putting together this team, I’m grateful, and we are really blessed for the team we got.”
The project took shape in 2015 when key individuals like Tom Trompeter, former CEO of HealthPoint, and former Renton City Mayor Denis Law joined forces. Their commitment and collaboration set the foundation for progress. The Renton School Board played a vital role by leasing adjacent land to Cascade Elementary School, providing an ideal location for the community center.
With a combination of public and private funding, including a total of over $14 million, the Family First Community Center project became a reality. The groundbreaking ceremony in the Benson/Cascade area of Renton in 2019 marked the beginning of the construction phase. Doug Baldwin Jr. expressed his immense pride in the collaborative effort required to transform a vision into a tangible asset for the community. He hopes that the center will serve as a model for other cities across the state and the country.
The capital campaign received generous contributions from a diverse group of donors, including prominent entities such as the First Financial Northwest Foundation, Doug & Tara Baldwin, the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust, the Premera Social Impact Fund, the Hearst Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, CarPros of Renton, the Norcliffe Foundation, the Rotary Club of Renton, Starbucks Coffee Company, and the Boeing Company, per Theregistryps.com.
According to Seahawks reporter John Boyle, the Seattle Seahawks have pledged $250,000 over the next five years through the Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund.
Additionally, the campaign benefited from the diligent efforts of U.S Representative Adam Smith (D-WA), State Representative Steve Bergquist (D-11th), State Senator Bob Hasegawa, State Representative David Hackney, King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, and King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who secured county, state, and federal grants to support the initiative further.
The primary goal of the Family First Community Center is to cater to all age groups while focusing on recreation, education, and fostering a sense of togetherness. The center features an array of amenities designed to meet the diverse needs and interests of the community. Notably, it includes a HealthPoint Clinic, a valuable resource providing accessible healthcare services to individuals of all backgrounds.
Additionally, the center houses a gymnasium, a fitness center, and a studio, offering opportunities for physical activity and wellness. These facilities promote an active and healthy lifestyle among community members. Moreover, including a STEM maker space reflects the center’s commitment to educational growth and innovation. It will serve as a hub for exploring science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, enabling children and adults alike to develop essential skills for the future.
The Family First Community Center also emphasizes the importance of communal spaces, with multiple gathering areas available for events, meetings, and socialization. These spaces are intended to foster connections and a sense of belonging within the Renton community. The center aims to strengthen the social fabric and promote a vibrant community spirit by providing an inclusive and welcoming environment.
This transformative project serves as a testament to the power of collaboration, vision, and a shared commitment to improving the lives of community members. With its diverse amenities and focus on holistic development, the Family First Community Center is poised to become a cornerstone of the Benson/Cascade neighborhood, enriching the lives of residents for generations to come.