Orlando’s oldest outreach center opened a newly renovated gym Tuesday that will be a place of hope and health for urban children.

Bishop Allen Wiggins, chairman of the board for Frontline Outreach Youth and Family Center, told visitors about the crumbling ceiling, warped wooden floor and dilapidated walls where the children once played basketball and volleyball.

“Just look at the vibrancy and sense of energy now,” said Wiggins, pointing to the multi-colored beams and shiny floor emblazoned with a quote from Joshua 1:19 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Commissioners Sam Ings and Regina Hill were on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony at Frontline Outreach, an education and recreation outlet for more than 500 children in west Orlando.

The center was started in 1968 by Dr. James R. Smith, one of Orlando’s first African-American physicians, as the Washington Shores Association for Recreation. It later became Frontline Outreach through the efforts of evangelist C. R. Smith.

“This is not about the paint on the walls or the new hardwood floors,” said Steve Hogan, CEO of Florida Citrus Sports. “This is about investing in our community.”

Florida Citrus Sports was just one of the partners in the half million-dollar renovation. Others include the USTA National Campus, Orlando City Soccer Club, Total Roof Services and The Dawn Brancheau Foundation.

Half of the funds came from the City of Orlando’s Community Block Development Grant funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Dyer said the partnership is another example of how the community works together to solve problems.

“We are so much better and stronger when we collaborate and work together,” he said.

First Baptist Orlando Pastor David Uth told the story of how a gym changed him by bringing him closer to God through a ministry similar to Frontline Outreach.

“That gym changed the trajectory of my life along with the children’s and grandchildren’s lives,” Uth said. “I pray the breath of life into [the gym] so every troubled teen will find a place of home and life change.”

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