Dozens of Durham City youngsters have put their stamp on a local community centre by helping to design its new look.
In normal times, around 200 children come together over three nights every week for the youth club held at the Laurel Avenue Community Centre on the Sherburn Road Estate to the east of Durham city.
Last year, the club members were asked by the Laurel Avenue Community Association for their ideas about how the building could be made friendlier and more accessible
Suggestions included a new hatch into the reception area, extra notice boards, a keycode entry system, a glass door through to the main office and new radiator covers.
And now, thanks to a £4,740 grant from County Durham-headquartered mining, property and renewable energy firm The Banks Group, work on the community centre redesign has now been carried out.
The Community Centre is currently closed due to the pandemic restrictions, but youth club leaders have still been keeping in close touch with their members.
Weekly visits have been made to around 90 homes around the area, with more than 210 activity packs being provided to the children living in them every Monday, as well as food parcels where required.
Originally opened in 1985, Laurel Avenue Community Centre also hosts regular coffee mornings and lunch clubs for local older people, as well as a mother and toddler group.
Manager Claire Linfoot says: “The children came up with lots of great ideas about the changes we could make to the community centre and the work that’s been done has made a real difference to the environment that we can offer both to them and all our users.
“It’s really opened the building up and we think it’ll help us further increase the number of people who come into the centre once we’re able to reopen our doors.
“Our youth clubs are a really important part of the week for so many of our members and we wanted to make sure we stayed in touch with everyone while the building’s out of commission.
“Our members come from right across Durham City, so we’re doing a lot of travelling at the start of every week, but it’s been great to see them all and as well as giving them new things to do every week, it also means we’re there to provide any help, advice or support that they and their families might need.
“We’d been wanting to smarten up the community centre for a long time and we’re really grateful to the Banks Group for providing with the funding we needed to finally get the required work done.”
Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, adds: “We’re very pleased to have been able to support the work that’s been done at such a well-used and important community building, and it’s inspiring to now see the lengths to which the youth club team is going to keep in touch with their members at this most difficult of times.”
Michelle Cooper, chief executive of County Durham Community Foundation, says: “This has been a brilliant project at a time when lots of children have had a tough summer, and what better way to encourage them than to get them involved in important decisions like this.
“As ever, we are delighted to work with donors like the Banks Group, who really put back into the community and think of the needs of the next generation.”
Anyone interested in applying for funding should first contact the fund manager for The Banks Community Fund at the County Durham Community Foundation via firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0191 378 6342 before applying for a grant to check if their group or project is eligible.