by Mark Thompson

CELEBRATION TIME: Gordon Larkin with users and residents at the Belle Vue Sports and Youth Centre, Tara Stallard, with Amy Cockburn, Wendy Dick with Aimee Hay, Andrea Attwell, Norma Brown, Pamela Stallard, Lisa Slaughter and Sheila Collins
CELEBRATION TIME: Gordon Larkin with users and residents at the Belle Vue Sports and Youth Centre, Tara Stallard, with Amy Cockburn, Wendy Dick with Aimee Hay, Andrea Attwell, Norma Brown, Pamela Stallard, Lisa Slaughter and Sheila Collins
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A YOUTH club is celebrating after a mammoth community effort saved it from closure.

Belle Vue Youth Club has struggled for funding since the turn of the year and its organisers were planning to call it a day.

But workers and residents near the club’s base at the Belle Vue Centre Sports & Youth Centre, in Kendal Road, Hartlepool, pulled together to raise £4,000.

That will keep the club going for six months and more activities are being organised to make sure it is still around long after that.

Centre manager Gordon Larkin said: “This is the lifeline we needed. Prime Minister David Cameron has talked about a ‘Big Society’ for communities and this shows it is working. People have come together.

“When our community is backed into a corner, people always come out fighting. They were determined that the youth club wouldn’t close and they’ve saved it.”

The youth club provides activities throughout the week for around 250 young people, aged five to 19. It runs on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. But Mr Larkin now hopes with extra funding from other organisations the club can run every night.

Pamela Stallard, 37, was among the parents keen to keep the club running as her son, Connor, 10, relies on it as he has dyspraxia.

The care home worker, who lives in Bowness Close, said: “We are delighted. Connor feels comfortable there. He won’t go anywhere else. It gets him his exercise so he can build his muscles up and he socialises with children of different ages.”

Fundraisers say they were given a further incentive when vandals smashed four windows at the centre on March 10. Mr Larkin said: “The children were devastated but we will not stop just because someone has smashed a few windows. There is too much community spirit here.”

Hundreds of people have taken part in fundraising including 40 who took part part in a 160ft bungee jump from a crane at a centre fun day. Staff members, family and friends dived into the sea at Seaton Carew as part of a Valentine’s Day dip, which raised £500.

Mr Larkin praised Guinness Northern Counties, the youth club’s co-ordinator, Trevor Robinson and Hartlepool Police, who all played a big part in getting the club through a difficult time.

To carry on the campaign, a ladies night has been arranged for Thursday, April 21, at the Belle Vue Social Club, in Kendal Road. Tickets (£7) are available from the community centre next door or on the door on the night.

For more information about future fundraising events call the centre on (01429) 221832.