A LEADER at Scotch Street Youth Club says he is “disappointed and annoyed” at an anonymous letter-writer who made unfounded allegations about the group.
Gordon Woolsey said the letter, which was sent to statutory bodies including Craigavon Borough Council and the SELB Youth Service, had resulted in various checks being made at the club - none of which uncovered any areas for concern.
The incident has not deflected the club from its plans for the future, with a grant this week kicking off its fundraising activities to raise money for a new building.
The checks, which were carried out this week and last week, covered fire safety, environmental health and issues such as the ratio of leaders to children but, said Gordon, did not identify any problems.
Gordon, who has not yet seen the letter in it entirety but will legally be entitled to do so next week, pointed out that the incident had left parents “outraged”.
He said, “People feel every annoyed - some of the specific claims made regarding parents were completely untrue - and I have had letters of support for the club and its work, which has been very humbling.
“We are all voluntary workers here and we all do it for the same reason - the young people. The youth club is such a positive thing for the area and parents and leaders are annoyed that someone should want to damage that.”
One letter, from a Portadown parent, said, “Scotch Street Youth Club has changed my two children’s lives so much. Not only is it just a youth club but they act like one big family to my children. Each week they look forward to their Monday nights and now Saturday night youth club. Gordon Woolsey, Bethany Ebron and all the leaders are fantastic - they treat our kids with respect, compassion and bring such joy to all the kids.
“It disgusts me and enrages me to think that someone is trying their hardest to destroy the hard work that Gordon, Bethany and all the leaders have put into the youth club.”
Scotch Street Youth Club has been a growing success with up to 100 young people, equally split from both sides of the community, taking part in its junior and senior sessions on a Monday evening. This year, around 180 children attended its summer scheme.
While the youth club is using Richmount Primary School as a temporary base, it is hoping to build its own youth centre and is seeking planning permission for a plot of land behind Scotch Street Filling Station.
Said Gordon, “It will be a purpose-built timber frame building, including a main hall, hang-out area, computer room, office and kitchen, and will cost around £15,000.”
The junior club for children in P4-P7 meets from 6-7.30 on a Monday evening and the seniors, from first year to age 17, meets from 7.30-9.30. Members can meet friends, play the x-Box and PS3, pool and air hockey among other games and enjoy milk shakes and snacks from the tuck shop.
The club is about to embark on a fundraising campaign, which was given a significant boost last week with the confirmation of a grant for £2,500 from the 02 Think Bigger awards scheme.
A number of events planned for the coming weeks include a bingo night tomorrow (Saturday) from 6pm-9pm in Richmount Primary School. a car boot sale next Saturday, October 20 at the school from 9-1 and a vintage tractor run and fun day on Saturday, October 27 from 1-6.
There will also be a coffee morning at the school from 8-10am on Saturday, November 3 and a quiz night on Saturday, November 24 from 7.30-9.30.
Youth club members will also be holding a bag pack in Tesco, Meadows Shopping Centre, on Saturday, December 15.
A Halloween scheme will run this month, for the first time ever, and just three weeks ago, a new group, Richmount Rascals, opened its doors to parents/grandparents and children from birth up to P3. Said Gordon, “In three weeks we have had 70 children registered.” The group metes in the school every Saturday morning from 10-12.