TV vote youth centre gets its �50k

IT is Christmas come early for hundreds of delighted youngsters at a Great Yarmouth youth centre after lottery funders who earlier said they had lost out on a �50,000 windfall decided to give it to them anyway.

IT is Christmas come early for hundreds of delighted youngsters at a Great Yarmouth youth centre after lottery funders who earlier said they had lost out on a �50,000 windfall decided to give it to them anyway.

The boost means that Newtown Youth Centre has the future it dreamed of after a difficult few months which began with a fire that drained resources but not enthusiasm for a new hall project.

Just days ago, centre secretary Carl Harding could not see how it could survive beyond February but is now “over the moon” following the surprise turnaround from the Big Lottery, which suddenly decided to celebrate its 15th birthday by rewarding 15 good causes.

“It is without a doubt probably the best Christmas present for the kids,” Mr Harding said. “It is amazing. Every single person connected with this project - including The Mercury - deserves praise because everyone has worked so hard. It is a great way to end 2009 and an even better way to start 2010.

“It is just an amazing feeling,” Mr Harding added. “My wife Julie and I have had time to sleep on it and we are both really buzzing. A rollercoaster would be the best way to describe the last few months. We have gone from an extreme low with the arson, then to a high with the TV vote, and to lose that was heart rending. Then to be as low as we were and to get the phone call on Tuesday was amazing.

“I did wonder if it was someone playing a cruel joke. It was an amazing turnaround.

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“The centre really is so important to this area and I am not sure if people really realise how important it is. We have had so much help and support which just goes to show there is more good than bad in this town. It is all smiles now, the kids will be over the moon and now we can really take the project to the next level.

“Everything is done and sitting in the folder ready to go. We are very very hopeful that by March the new building will be open.

“Last week was looking grim. I was thinking that if we could get through to the end of February we would be lucky. It is just total elation.”

The award comes just weeks after the centre in Jellicoe Road lost out by just 157 votes to an Essex-based youth counselling service via ITVs Peoples' Millions. Last week the Mercury reported that an anonymous donation had enabled a Christmas party to go ahead but that the long-term future looked bleak.

Adding to Mr Harding's joy Great Yarmouth Borough Council this week honoured its pledge to add �10,000 to the funding pot if they were successful in the TV vote. Council leader Barry Coleman said he was delighted for the youth centre and was happy to contribute to the funding, even though it had come via an unexpected route.

“The money will still be forthcoming,” he said. “I am absolutely delighted because I know through talking to the ward councillors what tremendous work Carl and his team do. They have had such a difficult few months and it is in part of the town that does not get the recognition for the problems that are there. We are very happy to support them.”

Trustee Paul Garrod, whose council ward includes the youth centre, said its plight had rallied the community and cross party support, adding: “It is absolutely fantastic that they will be able to get up to 250 kids off the streets and give them something to do. There is not a great deal up that end of town.”

Mr Harding said he was extremely grateful for the community response in the aftermath of the fire and in polling their votes. The �50,000 will add to a �35,000 funding pot already secured plus the �10,000 from Great Yarmouth Borough Council to provide a new-build centre with two classrooms, one large function room, toilets and a cloakroom.

Sara Betsworth, the Big Lottery Fund's head of region for the East of England said: “I am delighted that Newtown Youth Club has been selected to receive one of the Big Lottery Fund's awards marking 15 years of lottery support for good causes. The youth club is one of 15 community projects across the UK sharing in the special funding package. The project has worked really hard to ensure wide-ranging support and involvement of the whole community and is a perfect example of how Lottery money has been making a huge difference to communities since 1994.”