TOLEDO, Ohio — A Springfield Township veteran who served in active duty for six years returned home with the goal to keep serving. This time, rather than just serving the country, he is serving his local community too.
Now a enrolled student at Owens Community College and current staff sergeant in the Air Force, Blake Bethel proposed to help the Soul City Boxing Gym for one of his classes by creating a GoFundMe campaign aimed at renovating their ring and equipment.
“I found inspiration to reach out to Soul City a little bit through Owens Community College and a little bit through how I’ve been trained to think in the military,” Bethel said. “We serve our country but they also encourage us to be involved with the community. And then, in this class at Owens our project was to find a way to be more involved.”
The gym has been serving at-risk youth in Toledo since 2008 when physical education funding was cut from Toledo Public Schools. They have been offering boxing classes and other after-school activities as a way to get kids out of the streets and minimize violence.
Soul City coach and co-founder, Roshawn Jones, said they chose to be at Junction Avenue in central Toledo because of the low high school graduation rate in that area and their goal to help kids in the inner city learn basic skills such as math, reading, writing, among others.
“We’re here to trying to save kids, trying to save lives, trying to provide a future for kids. It’s not about boxing, we are just trying to give kids a life lesson,” Soul City director Sharisha Crockett said. "We have kids on the honor roll, we have kids in college. It runs the gamut of the kid that may be trying to drop out of school, the one who has dropped out of school, all the way to somebody who is graduating from college.”
Over the summer, Soul City takes care of kids full time rather than just on the weekends and after school hours. Besides the boxing training, they also provide the kids with lunch and dinner while relying solely on donations.
Their aim is to reach $5,000, which is how much they estimate is needed to improve their gym equipment and boxing ring. So far, they have collected $430.
“The best thing about this renovation, us spending this money, is that we will have more space for the kids, more activities for them to do, which will make more kids wanna come,” Jones said.