Church Steps In to Save Youth Club
A Baptist church in Herefordshire has been praised after saving a popular youth centre under threat from closure
Ross Baptist Church has bought the property that houses the yZone, the youth and arts centre based in the heart of Ross-on-Wye.
Each week the centre provides access for local groups to work with young people from the town and surrounding areas, but its future was uncertain following a review of Herefordshire County Council's youth service.
The council, which owned the property, began discussions with the current users and local community groups to see if any could take it on.
However, none had the resources to be able to commit to the level of investment required - apart from the church.
Though the church is in an interregnum, it sees itself as a missional community that is there to be Good News for Ross-on-Wye.
A number of accountants and businessmen are in its congregation, and a team led by Melvin Reynolds put together a viable business plan. After months of cooperation with council and service users, the process has been completed.
The building will be available for hire by individuals or groups delivering a community benefit and will be operated on a not for profit basis.
The church's new office will be based there (selling its current office has helped to fund the process), and it will manage the building in consultation with a user group comprising regular users.
Ward councilor Andrew Atkinson described it as 'the best outcome imaginable', stating the centre will be run by 'local people who understand the needs of the town and our young people while also housing their Church office'.
'The local church has really stepped up to the mark and made a difference in the town which will benefit many local people and it has been a pleasure to work with them on this project,' he said.
David Houghton, chair of the trustees for Ross Baptist Church, said it was a big step for the church - but an important one in continuing to serve the town.
'Since we first had a chapel on our Broad Street site in the early 19th century, our aim has always been to be Good News in our locality. As times change so do the ways in which that aim can be expressed.
'Although purchasing the yZone is a big step for us it will enable existing users, and we hope new ones, to use these centrally located yZone facilities for the benefit of the Ross area. It opens up opportunities for strengthening the community in difficult economic times.'
A number of yZone users expressed their delight and relief that Ross Baptist Church has taken on the building. Keith Wilding, chair of the trustees for The Basement Youth Trust, said the purchase 'takes away the fear of losing the facility to a commercial enterprise and allows us to concentrate on running youth activities in Ross.'
Buying the facility has also helped the church provide another service to the town: it is one of the first to offer a Christians Against Poverty Job Club. It is running weekly workshops to help people in Ross-on-Wye get back into work.