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Former Seahawk Doug Baldwin goes all in on community after retirement

With football in the rear view mirror, former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin is going all in on a community project in Renton, called Family First Community Center.

Gee: How Doug Baldwin changed my life and influenced my family

“Family First is built upon the premise that when you walk through the doors families will be treated like human beings,” Baldwin told KIRO Radio. “Kids will be recognized as individuals who are seen, heard, and loved unconditionally.”

The recently-retired Seahawk has been working with the City of Renton for over five years on this project. But the idea goes further back than that — according to Baldwin, the idea sprouted years ago growing up as a kid in Florida, where he spent time at the Southern Youth Sports Association.

Baldwin describes the Southern Youth Sports Association as his second home. More than that, it was a place that welcomed neighborhood kids from all socioeconomic backgrounds, much like the Cascade area of Renton where the Family First Community Center will be built.

The Cascade community is 25 percent of the Renton population. Twelve percent lives below the poverty line, and 20 percent is 14 years or younger.

When Baldwin was a kid, the Southern Youth Sports Association was vital to his development.

“It was more than just a physical location with resources and services,” he said. “It was about the people who created an environment where I was safe and free to be a kid, and really explore who I was at a very young age.”

These happy memories resurfaced when Baldwin landed in Seattle in 2011 as a rookie, and moved to Renton’s Cascade area. At his favorite teriyaki restaurant in the neighborhood — also a hub in the community for kids — a common topic of conversation surrounded a lack a places children could call their own to hang out and play.

So, he reached out to the city of Renton about his idea to bring a community center to this neighborhood.

As it turns out, Baldwin’s wing-man in this endeavor has been Renton Mayor Denis Law, who has been critical to the project.

“I am incredibly grateful and blessed to be working with this mayor because he has a genuine care and passion about the people he serves,” Baldwin said.

After spending some time with Baldwin, it was clear to Mayor Law that he had a passion for kids. That made moving forward with the project a no-brainer.

“I thought, ‘What better combination could you have to go out and start thinking about how do we make this happen,’ because it will literally change the lives of kids and families in this area,” Law said.

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Over the last five years, they’ve been building off the $1 million dollars that Baldwin donated to the project. They’ve come up with $10 million through additional private and public donations. They still need another $5 million to complete the center.

Despite being short of that goal right now, they are moving forward with the project.

For Baldwin, the Family First Center is more than just a place for kids to hang out.

“This is a societal issue,” Baldwin said. “We’re seeing it play out more and more where people aren’t recognized as human beings. This facility will address that issue by creating a safe space for people to be creative, explore, and be curious because when you do that the possibilities are endless.”

As to any regret that he won’t be dressing up this season as a Seahawk, Baldwin’s grateful for his experiences, and feels blessed to have come to the Seahawks’ at a time when he was able to be a part of a winning culture.

“Winning a Superbowl was amazing, but time waits for nobody,” Baldwin said. “And I only have a limited time to do the things I want to do now in life.”

The center will break ground in February 2020 on land donated by the Renton School District. They hope to open doors to the community in 2021.

If you want to donate head to the Renton Foundation website here.

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