£75,000 Lottery grant recognises vital youth work in town

A Leek based youth charity is celebrating after a successful bid to the National Lottery Community Fund worth £75,000.

The Leek Youth Project, based in Market Street, known as @21, has been running for over 20 years. It provides facilities, support, and activities for young people, many who are at risk.  In 2014 central funding for the project disappeared when Staffordshire County Council closed all its youth services and since then a determined group of dedicated local volunteers have pitched in to keep the youth club open.

It plays a vital role in helping and protecting the more vulnerable youngsters in the area by providing youth workers, a base, an activity centre, structure, and people to talk to in time of crisis.

@21 secretary Roy Gregg said: “The last seven years have been really difficult. It costs £7000 a year to keep the building running and £10,000 for two youth workers to support the volunteers who work for nothing.

“We have been barely keeping our head above water financially, but we knew how important it was to keep our charity alive and to support and enhance the lives of young people in the town.”

“The Lottery grant means that @21 has the finances and security to continue for the next three years and we now have stability without threat of closure hanging over us.

“However, we will not be resting on our laurels and we are pushing ahead with our campaign to raise our profile and develop a network of supporters and services to help us carry on long into the future.”

“The response to date has been really positive and we are already working with a group of businesses in the town have formed an the @21 Action Group whose aim is to bring in long-term support from the Leek business community. In addition, they are providing invaluable help with marketing, PR, finance, advice and access to their networks.”

Sarah Pruce, youth worker at @21 added: “The Lottery funding award is a fantastic recognition of the importance of our work, and it means that we can run our drop-in sessions more frequently, open for longer hours and organise more activities. We know how critical our support is for these youngsters, and particularly during the pandemic.  We are now looking forward to coming out of lockdown stronger than ever.”

If you would like to you would like to find out more about how you can get involved with @21 please contact Michelle Cohen: michellecohentownend@gmail.com or call 07734 417928.

Photo: Alison Dodd, Sonny Edward, Sarah Pruce, Kadi Luke, Jill Ashton, Summer Rose White, Roy Gregg and Jane Tattersall