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Wolverhampton's The Way Youth Zone makes £150k funding plea

By Megan Archer | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

A lifeline youth club in Wolverhampton urgently needs help from its community – to protect and inspire young people across the city.

Excitement marked the opening of The Way – but today the youth centre has revealed the challenges it faces to keep operating

The Way Youth Zone needs £150,000 this year to be able to keep running – and bosses are asking for help.

Championed by entrepreneur and former Wolves owner, Steve Morgan, The Way opened its doors in 2016 in a £5.5m project.

Liam Payne, centre, helped launch The Way with Steve Morgan back in 2015

Wolverhampton popstar Liam Payne helped launch the centre and met youngsters and representatives from the project.

There was additional backing from the Morgan Foundation, The Queen’s Trust and St James’s Place Foundation.

Chiefs at The Way, which has been open in School Street for just over three years, say the impact the club has on Wolverhampton youngsters is ‘immeasurable’ and helps them keep active, keep off their computers, and stay off the streets.

Carla Priddon, CEO at The Way, said: “We are seeking support from both the private sector and the community at this time to continue delivering services for local young people during times when schools are closed.

Liam Payne championed The Way when it launched in 2015

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“We are somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to.

“Young people come to us entirely voluntarily and we make a difference to over 1,000 local young people a week.

“We are part of the community and are proud of the difference we make to young people in the city.

“The impact we truly have is immeasurable but we do know that young people are making friends, trying something new, having a healthy meal for just £1, staying off the streets or off their computers and getting active.”

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Former Wolves owner Steve Morgan, the brains behind The Way, with chief executive Carla Priddon and chairman John Gough

The youth club has got by since they were founded in January 2016 thanks to a three-year donation plan from supporters and patrons. However, this plan has now come to an end.

Now, The Way needs new supporters – whether big companies, small family-run firms, or generous individuals – to help keep the youth club running to its highest standard.Without the £150,000 it needs, opening hours would have to be cut back to save money.

Carla added: “Several young people have described The Way as ‘a family’. It’s so important to our young members and their families. New experiences are offered, horizons are broadened, expectations stretched, and confidence built. This opportunity motivates and inspires young people to transform their lives and we want people to be part of that.

Mall Cowgill with Liene Busma,10, and Sheneil Parker, 10

“We need £1.4 million to continue to offer the service we do – but taking it one year at a time, we need £150,000 to get to the end of this financial year in March 2020.

“Even if everyone gave £10 it would make a huge difference.

“We simply cannot change the lives of young people without you.” The idea for the youth centre was originally spearheaded by former Wolves owner Steve Morgan who made a commitment to fund the first £1 million.

Can you help? Visit The Way in School Street, call 01902 328290 or donate to its Just Giving page at justgiving.com/wolverhampton-youthzone

This is The Way to a brighter future

'Why should people support The Way? Well, why wouldn’t you?'

The chairman of Wolverhampton’s biggest and brightest youth club John Gough believes it’s that simple.

Our city has this incredible facility right on its doorstep – where children and teenagers can play, learn, make friends or simply relax, for four hours every day after school.

WATCH highlights of the launch

The Way Youth Zone Opening Day

It costs just 50p to get in – and yet youth club members can play football with their mates, scale the impressive climbing wall, bash out the drums, paint a masterpiece, practice their cheerleading routine, and so much more.

But it needs help. It needs local businesses to step in – and help keep this absolutely vital facility running for decades into the future.

Jonathan Moore with Faith Williams, 12

The Way is shaping Wolverhampton’s – and the wider Black Country’s – future teachers, nurses, lawyers, drivers, business owners, writers, athletes, leaders.

Now we, as a city, need to help them keep it going. Mr Gough, age 69, one of the founding members of The Way with his wife Helen, explains why businesses should get involved and show their support.

“If I want to be uplifted, I come here,” he said. “It’s just fantastic. And the facilities! It’s 50p a night for world class facilities. The gymnasium is as good as any professional gymnasium. The climbing wall, the music room.

“And there’s a wonderful kitchen – for £1 these children can get a full nutritious meal.

Jeremy Woolridge with Mason Makund, 8

“We have a boxing room, dance studio, inclusion rooms, quiet rooms, and also an employability and enterprise suite – we’re helping people into work.

“Wolverhampton has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the UK. And we are doing what we can to help them into employment. A lot of companies are very supportive of the Way and hopefully more will become supportive You’ve only got to come and look around here and just see how engaged all these young people are.”

The Way has more than 3,000 members aged eight to 19 – and up to 25 with disabilities.

Carla said she hoped more local businesses would come and visit the youth club and see for themselves exactly why it needs support.

Graham Micklewright with Valentino Williamson, 10

She said: “It costs £1.5 million every year to run. We’ve just celebrated our third birthday – and when we first started we had 24 founder patrons who all signed up to pay £25k a year for three years.

“But now, in 2019, that has come to an end. About 60 per cent are still committed to give again, we’re still waiting to hear from 25 per cent – and the other 15 per cent have, quite rightly, said they have given enough.

“The thing is, when people come and visit, they look around our swanky new building and think we don’t need help. But essentially, if we don’t get enough funding, we have to reduce our opening hours.”

The club is now offering new funding opportunities for businesses who might want to give anything from as little as £1,000.

Louise Fall with Maddi Harris, 11

Mr Gough, who lives in Pattingham and has two sons, added that the work The Way does for young people and their families was invaluable.

“A mum wrote to us a few weeks ago – her daughter was really shy and introverted, locked herself in her room, didn’t want to engage in anything. She came here and she learnt to interact with young people, her confidence grew, she then started finding she had a talent for some sports and activities she never knew she had. Sometimes schools don’t always bring it out – sometimes you just need to play. This mum wrote in to say how grateful she was.

“I also asked a boy why he was involved with the youth club and he said he didn’t really have much family life – he said this was his family and he owed everything to it.

Mike Kelly (left) and Andrew Bentley with Courtney Davis, 11, Lydia Blakeway, 12 and Danielle Mudzingwa, 12

“We have a tremendous number of volunteers – more than 100 of them giving thousands of hours of free time – without them this just wouldn’t work.

“We have a great board, we have great patrons, great committed staff and wonderful volunteers – we couldn’t do it without them all.”

Patron Paul Horton, a partner at FBC Manby Bowdler, said: “FBC recognises the first class facilities that are provided by The Way to its members of all ages and, the important role which The Way plays in the development of youngsters from all backgrounds within the city.”

Megan Archer

By Megan Archer
Deputy Chief Reporter - @MeganA_Star

Deputy Chief Reporter with the Express & Star. Give me a call on 01902 319363 or email megan.archer@expressandstar.co.uk.

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