TULSA, Okla. — Coach Keith Reed, who some call the "father to the fatherless," wants to take an empty, old community center and rebuild it into a place of potential to spread love and squash hate.
Whether it's after school or a hot summer day, kids are jammed into the Reed Foundation Center in north Tulsa.
"I've been coming up here nine years now. Since I was two, it's been really fun up here," said Sherard Boyd, a 5th-grader.
There are healthy snacks to fuel up on, playtime outdoors, and above all, guidance.
"I've learned respect and that you should always answer your elders, 'yes sir, no sir, you know,' 'yes ma'am. No ma'am,'" said Amaria Adkins
It's a tight fit at the coach's current facility. But he has a plan and key players in place to make it happen.
Tulsa native and University of Tulsa basketball star Marcus Hill said walking through the Ben Hill Community Center gym is like coming home.
"I remember the basketball goals were chained out with the backboard coming out, so whenever we used to try to dunk, the rim would move," Hill said about the gym that helped shape his future.
It's been decades since he went inside.
"I say maybe almost 20 plus years ago as a youngster. I play ball for the North Mabee Center," he said. "It was just a nice facility. It was air condition, you know, you know, room temperature. They had a nice scoreboard. They had the bleachers."
Now the once vibrant center is just an empty shell.
"20 some years ago, we had, I think, it was around 20 rec centers across the City of Tulsa, there was less and less funding every year, most of those I mean more than half of those rec centers were closed. It really is pure luck that this one didn't get torn down," said Anna America with the City of Tulsa Parks and Recreation department.
Ben Hill had a date with the wrecking ball after sitting empty for more than ten years.
"There were a couple of attempts in the years after that to partner with different community partners at this center and other centers. None of those really worked out," said America.
Now, that is about to change.
"I picked Ben Hill because of where it was it serves north, east, west, and south," said Coach Keith Reed with the Reed Foundation
"We approached the city in 2019; we were just looking for, how can we expand," said Andy Coe, vice president of the Reed Foundation.
The board and Reed are breathing new life into the old place to support the community it used to serve.
"We came to the agreement that we get this facility for no rent for we are three, five-year consecutive leases, we have to take care of the of the interior, and we also have to take care of whatever utilities come along with it," said Coe.
For now, those basketball hoops are gone. Crews are working on upgrading the gym; they're buffing floors, fixing leaks and wiring.
The gym is getting a new look, and the old arts and crafts rooms will be transformed.
"We want to bring a STEM room here to educate the kids, give the kids a big way out to make it in society," said Reed.
They'll also want to make sure no one is hungry and help kids with homework after school.
"If you have, have an issue with, with math or with, with whatever subject, we're going to be able to help you do that we're now partnering with Oral Roberts University, and their athletes to be able to help get that done," said Coe.
"You know, with this facility right here, this will change a lot of kids' lives a lot of people's lives," said Hill.
With support from stars like Hill and corporate and community partners, it won't be long before coach's kids will be in their new home.
"This is the best thing in a long time. This is even probably better than signing a contract, and I do mean that because it's gonna change so many people's lives, even older people, people that used to come here, they couldn't come in here now they can walk in here and it brings back memories for them also," said Hill.
While the Reed Foundation is working hard to revitalize the inside of the center. The city will replace the roof, repair the outside of the building, and upgrade the park.
"This is one of our oldest and most worn-out playgrounds in the city," said America. "You're near some very significant places in north Tulsa that have historical significance. So, this park should be awesome, and it's not, and that's our fault; I mean, the city should never have let a park get in this condition."
The park improvements will take a few years, and the city will ask Tulsans what they'd like to see. Until then, Coach and his team will keep moving forward.
"Because the kids are our future," said Reed.
"It just gives me chills on my body; I'm so excited for the kids for the community for Coach Reed just for the city of Tulsa," said Hill.
If you would like to donate or learn more about the Reed Community Foundation, click here.
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