SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Timothy Edwards serves as a firefighter at Syracuse’s Station 18 on Midland Avenue.

“I got super lucky getting Station 18,” Edwards explained. “I wanted station 18 because I grew up in this neighborhood.”

It’s a job he’s always wanted to do because giving back is important to him.

“No one calls 911 for fun,” Edwards added. “They call us at their worst. Me being a part of their community, I recognize a lot of them. I’m glad I can be there for them.”

When he’s not at the fire station, you can find him less than a mile away in Valley Plaza at another job he’s passionate about. He’s a personal trainer and the owner of Southside Fitness, living out another dream every day.

“When I was growing up around here, I was always into fitness,” Edwards explained. “There was no affordable gym in my area. Then the closest gym for us was all the way Downtown.

He instead went to the parks to work out or played basketball. While he received a degree in social work, opening a gym in his neighborhood was always something he strived for. He worked three jobs and paid for every piece of equipment in what is now his own gym, southside fitness. His mission is to make sure cost is not a barrier for anyone.

“Here at Southside Fitness we understand that a lot of people don’t have credit cards or have bank accounts in the area, it’s a low-income area. So we created a cash way they can join the gym with just cash. They can come pay monthly. They can come when they can’t,” Edwards said.

He was intentional about this location, not only because he grew up across the street.

“A lot of our members walk to the gym or take bus to the gym,” Edwards said. “The bus drips them off right in front of the gym. So it couldn’t get any better than that, so thank you, CENTRO, for that.”

Khija Rockett is one of the members who walk here. She recently joined.

“I would go to a different gym on Erie Boulevard, which was a lot to do, financially. I don’t drive,” Rockett said. “So it was a lot to do to go back and forth in an uber and then also after getting off work, working 10 hours, and then going all the way out to the boulevard when I live here.”

She’s grateful to have made the switch to her neighborhood gym.

In addition to weights and cardio machines, Southside Fitness offers many classes, including Zumba and line dancing. The gym had about 225 members until the pandemic hit.

“Then we got down to about 100 members, a little under 10. So, we lost considerably more than half our members, so that was a tough hit for us,” Edwards said.

Edwards understands many of his clients are low-income, so a gym membership was not a priority. He’s doing what he can to try and get them back.

“Wiping off debt that they owe on their accounts just to get them back into the gym because they think, oh I owe money now, I can’t come, but we work with them,” Edwards said.

He had to put his own money into the gym. He did get some help from the City of Syracuse’s loan program.

“I don’t ever want to close the doors to this gym,” Edwards explained. That’s because this space, in this plaza, has special meaning to him.

“I was going on 12-years-old when my mother passed away. She passed away of cancer. I got moved in with my father. Things didn’t work out well. I became homeless. So I used to actually sleep behind this plaza sometimes.”

Despite those circumstances, he honored his mom by staying in school and out of trouble. That’s something he encourages the young people he crosses paths with to do.

“When I see kids out in this neighborhood, in the streets, I always try to pull them into the gym. Pull them into the gym and let them know they can come work out for free if they don’t have the money to do so and I help train them,” Edwards said.

You can learn more about Southside Fitness on their website: