Meet Macy Drake. She’s a self-styled “Rec Baby” who grew up hanging out anytime she could get into the neighborhood recreation center in her south Baltimore – “they call it Federal Hill, now.” Now she runs the Mt. Royal Recreation Center at 120 W. Mosher St., behind – and physically attached to – Mt. Royal Elementary and Middle School.
After months of disruption and closures because of COVID and then construction, the center for kids and adults is now open Mondays through Fridays each week from 1 to 9 p.m. Many Bolton Hill adults know the center primarily as an election day voting spot. Students from Mt. Royal EMS, Midtown Academy and other nearby schools know it as a place they can relax, study, use computers, do art and craft programs, learn about STEM, play games or just goof off and be safe.
It’s one of more than 50 active centers citywide run by the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks. “We have a wide range of after-school programs, some every day and others on specific afternoons. The afternoons are pretty structured. After 5:30 we try to focus on those who are 13 and older,” Drake said. “In all we have 31 after-school programs, clubs and activities. We especially target 12- to 15-year-olds.” Currently they serve 50 children 8 to 12 and another 20 who are 13-15.
The center has a gym/basketball facility available to adults for evening pickup games and team play. Any resident can participate by registering online here. During an afternoon tour in January there were a dozen teenaged boys playing in the gym and a separate room of young girls doing art projects. Other children were here and there. Mt. Royal school uses much of the space during the school day and school clubs can meet there, as well.
“Our big project right now is the Teen Lounge we’re setting up, starting in March,” said Drake. “It will be set apart with couches, TVs and games and snacks.” Teen engagement sessions were scheduled to get input about how the lounge should look and feel and how to generate interest. The target is young people in school, ages 13 to 17.
She said the center’s schedule is modified every couple of months to adapt to new programs and needs. Before COVID the center typically had about 100 engaged young people and adults. She is anxious to get new participation from adults and young people in and around Bolton Hill and would like to start up or host existing senior citizen programs. There is evening volleyball and basketball practice for adults and modeling classes for young people. All activities are free and open to anyone.
Non-profit and other community groups can use the facility for meetings or programs, as well, she said. Reach her at email@example.com or 410 396-0374.
In warm weather some of the programs move outside and in the summer the rec center takes on a summer camp motif, with field trips, swimming and meals. They will be looking for additional staff and volunteers to supplement the four part-time and two full-time employees there year-round, plus a janitor. They welcome donations and equipment to support their programs.
Macy Drake was 5 years old when she started going to a community center and later, as a teen Youth Works summer employee, she was assigned to work there. She finished high school and at 18 was hired part-time “and I’ve been doing this ever since.” Before Mt. Royal she led the Ella Bailey Rec Center attached to Thomas Johnson Elementary School in west Baltimore. Now 30, she and her husband recently bought a house in Middle River. She has a two-year-old son.
“It’s a fun job,” she said. “Our biggest challenge is communications, getting information out to the people who can use it. If there are people in the neighborhood who have ideas, we’d love to hear them. And we welcome visitors any time we are open. I like to look at it as a community center.”