Distington Youth Club, the brainchild of former prisoners of war, is marking its 70th anniversary this year.
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16 March 2017 3:24PM
The club, formerly known as the Boys’ Club, was established in 1947 following an idea by men in the village who had been captured in Germany during the Second World War.
In those early days, the activities included PT, boxing and woodwork – now around 100 children gather each week for a wide range of activities.
To celebrate the anniversary there will be an exhibition held at the youth club on June 10 looking at the past and present through photos and newspaper articles.
Christine Pattinson has been a youth development worker at the club since 2002, having started as a volunteer in 1999. The village had previously agreed a full-time youth officer was needed to develop more structured activities for young people to tackle the high level of crime in the village.
She said: “We offer young people a place to go where they can meet up with their peers and develop better social skills and promote positive opportunities.
“It is a safe, warm and inviting place. Some of the young people rush home from school, get changed and come along where we provide them with snacks such as beans on toast and bacon sandwiches, and somewhere to relax.”
The club offers a wide variety of activities from dominoes and cards, through to playing pool, table tennis, and arts & craft sessions.
It's open five nights a week, and some weekends, at various times for four to 18-year-olds, with a Friday night project for 11 to 19-year-olds.
The club also organises trips, particularly through the summer. Christine said: “By providing activities and trips we are able to give them the opportunity to access places they wouldn’t normally be able to, due to limited resources and transport.’’
The club also encourages young people to take part in events which earns them rewards.
The Rewards for Positive Action project helps promote positive community involvement which sees the young people collect points each time they go along to the club and take part in activities such as community clean-ups or fundraising.
These points are then turned into rewards which include trips and activities. “The children and young people are also rewarded for any good work they do in school and with the church,’’ Christine said.
Outreach work with young people who don’t want to access the club’s facilities is also carried out by the club, who work with the Distington Rural Safety Group and the community’s PCSO to help work on youth disaffection and anti-social behaviour.
Christine said: “Our volunteer base is very strong, with people who are committed to provide their time to working with young people. They also take part in any training courses beneficial to working with young people, to help create a safe and happy environment.
“It’s thanks to the volunteers and management committee that the club functions to its full capacity. Without them we simply couldn’t operate. I also have to thank the parents who we need to support us.’’
The club has recently received funding for a further two years, however it is constantly seeking funding for equipment and trips
Volunteers are also needed to help with maintaining the building and its garden area.
Over the past 12 months, the young people have helped raise funds with a car wash day, table top sales, coffee mornings and an annual duck race.
Christine – who over the years has become a surrogate mum to many of the club members – said she loves working at the club, even though she can be “tested’’ at times.
“But the young people keep coming back, and I keep coming back. We support each other. I think the club is an asset to the village.’’