BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith and his wife Chanel are helping revitalize a recreation center that was once a staple in west Baltimore.

The Hilton Rec Center closed its doors in 2008. Before then, it had served as a community meeting center and a place to shoot some hoops. Now, the Smiths will bring it back to life by providing staff and programs.

“Torrey and I became adults in this city, and we grew to love the community and the people in it, and we really believe there is so much potential here in Baltimore,” Chanel Smith said.

With their nonprofit Level 82 Fund already offering after-school programs, the couple was looking for something that would benefit the entire community. That’s when they teamed up with the city’s recreation and parks department.

“We literally were going around the city, different locations, different neighborhoods, trying to find where the need was and to find out where we could fit in,” the former Raven recalled.

Eventually, they landed on the shuttered rec center that once housed youth sports and summer camps.

“We know the potential that exists, so we’re looking forward to that responsibility to helping others,” Torrey Smith said.

Reginald Moore, the executive director of the parks department, also saw that potential.

“It’s an opportunity for us to reimagine the space, it’s a safe haven for our youth but it’s also an opportunity for our seniors in the morning to come out and have some programming opportunities,” he said.

The current vision calls for bringing mentorship opportunities as well as after-school, arts and STEAM programs to the center. The group is also seeking community input.

“We want them to tell us what they want done so we can make sure we’re meeting their needs,” Torrey Smith said.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unclear exactly when the center will reopen but there will be free Thanksgiving meals starting at 5 p.m. on November 24.

Sean Streicher

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