In 2016, Garrick Williams, Sr. dreamed of a place where hundreds of athletes and coaches could gather, delve into the Bible and worship and fellowship together. On March 20, 2019, the dream became a reality as a $250,000 transformation of a West Baltimore home into the Park Heights Saints Community Center was completed and celebrated at a Grand Opening.
Williams of the Maryland Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and others in the organization will now be able to reap the benefits of the transformation as the nonprofit works with more than 300 athletes and 45 coaches in Park Heights.
It is believed that the 2,000-square-foot home will have a great impact throughout the community.
“Rebuilding this house and turning it into the Park Heights Saints Community Center for the football and cheerleading teams is a dream God gave to Garrick Williams,” said , the Maryland FCA State Director. “So, when the community comes into this house, they will have their lives impacted forever by what God will do when they gather.”
After $250,000 in reconstruction and upgrades, the Park Heights Saints community can now gather in the center to do schoolwork in the computer lab, host team meetings and huddles, eat together or watch a game on TV.
Coaches and athletes will also be able to utilize the state-of-the-art workout room, thanks to Brick Bodies and Planet Fitness Growth Partners.
Smithson says the building will provide a safe environment that fosters hope and empowers the coaches and athletes to work, study and fellowship.
Parents and other adults in the community will also have access to a classroom, where they will be encouraged to obtain their GEDs and find work opportunities and the kitchen’s stocked pantry will offer more than snacks after practices; it will aid the community and be a home away from home, a central place to gather and grow together, according to Smithson.
“These athletes [have] never had a place to gather indoors and our goal is to create a place for the community to gather,” Smithson said. “It will have computer labs and there are already some people excited to come and teach classes.”
Smithson added that the center will also feature a workout facility in the basement and the organization will continue to work toward building and promoting health in the community.
“The initial challenge in launching this initiative was the questions of whether it was worth investing here and I think from an outsiders perspective, you can come and see a neighborhood that looks to be falling apart so naturally you get those questions,” Smithson said. “But, people have a passion for this community and they’re sticking around and rebuilding and providing opportunities for others.”
Smithson says that none of this would have been possible without dedicated sponsors and partners, including Wayne McPartland, Grace Community Church, Kelly & Associates, Under Armour, Brick Bodies & Planet Fitness and many others.
The nonprofit Power52 also played a large role in the process and the organization received a grant from the Institute for Sustainable Communities to convert the Park Heights Saints Community Center into a Resiliency Hub serving the local Park Heights community.
“Power52 is excited for our organization and graduates to be a part of bringing resiliency to those most vulnerable in the face of disasters,” said Cherie Brooks, Executive Director of Power52 Foundation. “We look forward to expanding our model and footprint to further benefit low-mid income (LMI) communities throughout the country.”
Smithson says FCA continues to touch millions of lives— one heart at a time. Since 1954, FCA has challenged coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use athletics to impact the world.
“This [community center] has been a really fun process to see come together,” Smithson said. “We started with the dream of Garrick Williams and what’s interesting is that the couch in that dream is the same couch we now have. To watch all of this come together is kind of cool.”