It Wouldn’t Be a Renton BBQ Without You Know Who
United Way of King County’s Annual Community BBQ is coming back to Renton, which means once again there will be scrumptious food, games, rides, activities, music …
Few professional athletes have ever embraced a venue they didn’t grow up in like Doug Baldwin Jr. has the city of Renton.
Few professional athletes have ever embraced a venue they didn’t grow up in like Doug Baldwin Jr. has the city of Renton. The former Seattle Seahawks star wide receiver is the city’s biggest fan, its seat at the table, its neighborhood resource, and its beacon of hope. Baldwin led the idea to launch an Annual BBQ last year to summon the entire area out of pandemic hibernation, but there was no doubt where he would choose as the gathering spot.
It is among several projects he’s gotten off the ground in the city; another recent venture is the Family First Community Center, which opened in July in the Cascade/Benson Hill area—the place where Baldwin resided during his rookie year with the Seahawks.
The center is located on school district property immediately adjacent to Cascade Elementary School; the Family First Community Center’s website says that 58% of Cascade Elementary students are eligible for free or reduced lunch and added that Cascade/Benson Hill area has nearly a quarter of the city’s population, with 12% of those residents falling below the poverty line. The Center delivers services and programs including sports and recreation, health and wellness, classes in technology, music, and English as a second language.
The Center is not far from Vault 89 Ventures, Baldwin’s firm that is rooted in increasing health equity, wealth building, and education opportunities through its investments. Other ventures in the city include a Family Football Combine for fans of all ages.
On the eve of the Second Annual Community BBQ, United Way sat down with Baldwin to talk about the event and all things Renton.
United Way of King County: Last year’s Community BBQ drew nearly 1,800 people! How did it match with what you envisioned for the event?
Doug Baldwin: Having over 1,800 people come out to the BBQ was amazing. We just wanted to put on a great event for the community, especially coming out of the pandemic. I think we hit that mark. I am excited to work with our partners and the dedicated United Way team to apply all the lessons we learned from last year’s event to make this year’s even more special for our community.
United Way of King County: As last year’s event centered on communities coming out after being sheltered in place during the pandemic, what are you hoping will bring people out this year?
Doug Baldwin: The pandemic revealed, in my opinion, the need for connection. There is something special about being out with friends and family enjoying a plate of good food in a joyful environment. That is what I remember about my family barbecues growing up and I believe we all could appreciate a little more joy in our lives.
United Way of King County: You recently opened your Family First Community Center in Renton. Can you talk about these two events tying together with families in communities, Renton, and beyond?
Doug Baldwin: Renton has a special place in my heart and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve that community through the community center. The idea came from seeing a need and trying to meet that need with thoughtful intentions. When you put like-minded partners together with a mandate to be innovative, that is where magic can happen.
The hope is that we will replicate that innovative thoughtfulness with this unique barbecue experience. My personal hope is that we are successful in solidifying the concept of what it means to build community.
United Way of King County: In the year since the Community BBQ, what have people told you about it? How have you incorporated what you’ve heard into approaching the event this year?
Doug Baldwin: The first year was a success in that people enjoyed the BBQ and were left satisfied. But naturally, we want to improve and make it an even better experience for the community. We know we can find more ways to engage the attendees. The plan is to build upon the activations from last year and continue to learn how we can create a memorable experience for all those that come to enjoy the BBQ.
United Way of King County: What is your long-term vision for the Community BBQ, Family First, and other resources to support communities?
Doug Baldwin: The long-term goal of this event is to give the community something to look forward to every year. There are a lot of great events happening in the region during the summer and some of them are more accessible than others. With the BBQ, we aim to bring everyone and anyone together to enjoy good food and a good time.
The hope is that the return on this investment is a healthier, more vibrant, and more connected community. If we achieve that goal, I believe there are many benefits that will last for generations to come.
You can buy plates to the Annual Community BBQ for $10 and give a couple as well for others here: https://www.uwkc.org/events/annual-community-bbq/