‘Save the charity that saved me’

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A FORMER teenage tearaway today pleaded for help to save a cash-strapped charity that steered him away from a life of crime.

Aged just 13, Nathan Greathead was booted out of school and was slapped with an Anti Social Behaviour Order after being hauled before magistrates “every other week”.

Five years on, Nathan has turned his life around after becoming heavily involved with the Manor West Youth Project in Hartlepool, but the centre is now facing the axe after severe funding cuts.

Bosses at the Owton Manor West Neighbourhood Watch and Residents’ Association have described their “heartbreak” as they revealed the charity could no longer make ends meet.

Among the centre’s many services which has had to be axed is the hugely popular Manor West Youth Project, which has helped hundreds of troubled youngsters turn their lives around.

Centre manager Julie Marshall, 45, whose late father John Reid set up the project in 2002, said: “I’m absolutely gutted, everyone involved is.

“We exhausted every single avenue but our funding has been cut everywhere and it just got too much.”

The charity, based in Hartlepool’s Brierton Lane, will officially dissolve on March 1 but its services and weekly sessions have already stopped.

The centre previously relied on providing the transport for Hartlepool Borough Council’s home to school contract around the town but had to pull out of the contact after being priced out in September last year, which Julie says cost the charity around £40,000 a year.

It then had to pull the plug on its dial-a-ride service due to rising fuel and maintenance costs.

And despite being handed £7,987 of emergency council funding in September and receiving constant support from Hartlepool Voluntary Development Agency (HVDA), charity bosses couldn’t secure long-term funding to keep the centre open.

It means the Youth Project’s Saturday Night Club, which attracted more than 80 kids every week and was used by more than 1,000 youngsters from all over the town, will no longer run and neither will any of the popular school holiday sessions and clubs.

The job club in the centre, which offered everything from help in CV writing to interview techniques and various adult education classes, will also be amongst the services to suffer.

The Manor West senior football team will be forced to fold, as will the Neighbourhood Watch project.

However, the Tuesday Club, held at Belle Vue Social Centre, in Kendal Road, will continue.

“It’s going to be a massive blow for the community, there’s no doubt about that” said Julie, a mum-of-two who lives in Owton Manor with her husband, Gary, 48, a construction worker.

The long-standing community centre was set up by Julie’s dad John in his bedroom 11 years ago as he aimed to reduce crime in the western part of the Owton Manor estate and tackle the problems of the community.

The residents’ association was soon formed as the organisation quickly grew, and moved into its current base in 2004.

Bosses and volunteers worked to make sure youths in the area stayed off the streets and to get local people into work.

John sadly died in July 2011 at the age of 70 after suffering with heart disease, but Julie continued the work which her dad had started.

“Anti-social behaviour has dropped in the area since we started up, police have told us that,” added Julie.

Nathan Greathead, 18, was given an ASBO and appeared at Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court “every other week” as he terrorised the Owton Manor area.

He was expelled from English Martyrs RC School and Sixth Form College when he was only in Year 8 aged just 13, and admits it was only a matter of time before he was given a stretch behind bars.

But after getting involved with the Manor West Youth Project, Nathan started to turn his life around and last year even set up his own boxing promotion company in the town.

After hearing about the centre’s closure, he told the Mail: “It’s gutting, it makes me feel sick.

“I’ll never forget what John and everyone at the centre have done for me, if I didn’t get involved I would have probably been in jail by now.

“But I haven’t been in trouble with the police for years now.”

Nathan, who lives in the Owton Manor area of town, was banned from the centre when he first signed up for “being cheeky”.

But after talking John into letting him back in, he then committed himself to helping out by volunteering in the office and with activities four days a week.

“When I first got involved there was a certain route I had to walk to the centre because most of the roads I was banned from with my ASBO,” said Nathan.

“I’d been slung out of school and I was in court every other week for all sorts.

“But John and Julie gave me the chance to get involved with the project.”

Nathan said he expects anti-social behaviour in the area to rise now the centre has stopped running its popular services for youngsters.

“It gives the kids something to do,” he said.

“If it changed me, it can change anyone. But now it’s not going to be here for kids and what will happen to those who behave like I used to?”

Nathan is now aiming for big things with his new career.

His company, NSG Promotions, has already had three sell-out boxing shows in the town and the next is taking place at Manor Club, in Wynard Road, on Saturday, February 23.

Only a few tickets are still available.

A raffle will also be held at the event for Hartlepool & District Hospice.

To buy tickets or to donate raffle prizes visit his facebook page