Off the streets and into the YMCA Recreation: The historic Druid Hill Family YMCA will sport a new look as it resumes an old mission: helping young people stay out of trouble.

June 18, 1996|By Erica C. Harrington | Erica C. Harrington,SUN STAFF

Dusty footprints covered the green, purple and white-tiled floor Friday at the renovated Druid Hill Family YMCA. Sunlight bounced off the silver insulation in the uncompleted ceiling. Carpeting had yet to be laid in the new weight room in the basement.

But amid the unfinished construction, YMCA Urban Services Director Paul Steward saw a world of possibility.

"This area has high crime and abuse rates, and we want to reverse those trends," Steward said. "Part of our mission is to get kids off the streets."

The historic facility will reopen tomorrow at 1609 Druid Hill Ave. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. It will be open for regular business Monday.

The Y has been closed since July. Renovations cost $3.3 million and included $1 million in funds from the state, $625,000 from the city, $200,000 from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and $100,000 from the France-Merrick Foundation.

Kenneth Morgan, 15, said he looks forward to the reopening because of his activities in Black Achievers, a teen leadership program run at the Y, and Druid Hill's convenient location. He said he hasn't been doing anything after school since the facility closed.

"I'm hap- py it's opening back up -- it kept me out of trouble," said Morgan, a Y member who lives across the street. "I'll have transportation again -- my two feet."

Roy Duryea, director of facilities for the Y, said only half the first floor and the basement of the building were used before the renovations.

He said years of neglect left floors and ceilings unsafe.

"During the demolition [stage of renovation], you could see through five floors, from the basement to the fourth floor," he said. "Everything had to be redone."

The building, dating from 1918, has new floors, walls, locker rooms, a new pool and a refurbished basketball court. In addition to new Nautilus equipment and weights, members will have fitness assessments to determine what exercise they should do.

The pool, surrounded by shiny purple and green tile, will be accessible to the disabled. A room that was condemned before renovations will be used for toddler activities, exercise classes and community meetings. The second floor will have a computer room, where members can learn how to use computers, and a community activity center, where teen-agers can relax after school.

The third and fourth floors of the building, where the outline of the old residence rooms still can be seen in the floor, are not being used.

Steward said the YMCA is open to ideas for that space.

Members of the Druid Hill YMCA scattered to other locations when the renovations began, including Towson and Harlem Park Family Resource Center.

Leon Dennis, an eight-year member, said the Y is important to the neighborhood because it offers positive role models for children.

He added that while going to the Harlem Park location for 11 months was inconvenient, it brought together residents from around the two facilities.

"[At the Y] you have role models, especially for the young men who come from single female households," he said.

The Druid Hill location was the only YMCA African-Americans could attend in Baltimore until the 1960s, and is the only YMCA still located in the city. It housed black soldiers returning from World War II and sponsored USO dances. The late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Schmoke attended that Y.

For YMCA board member Allen Jackson, who has been a member of the Druid Hill Y since the 1940s, it has been a source of life-long friendships.

"I still associate with some of the same members that were there in the 1930s," said Jackson, who is better known in Y circles as A. J. "I used to get there at 7 in the morning and found myself leaving at 4 in the afternoon. I got my money's worth."

Pub Date: 6/18/96

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