Gatehouse of Fleet YMCA Drop In centre celebrates 25th anniversary

Twenty-five years ago the young people of Gatehouse of Fleet took issue with those in the town who branded them as troublemakers and engaged in anti-social behaviour.

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 10:57 am
Work gets underway to refurbish a derelict workshop in Digby Street to create the Drop In Centre

Parents of the young people were equally outraged and called a public meeting inviting the local young people to identify their needs.

The youths asked for a cafe of their own with a pool table and a juke box. The Drop In was born, and adults in the town rallied round to help them fulfil their dream.

The owner of the Murray Arms offered its annex free of charge during the winter months and it soon filled up with donations of chairs, tables, crockery, music players and a pool table.

Some of the young people who organised a trip to Rome

The young people immediately began to meet there regularly and enjoy their own space. Within weeks a committee of residents was set up to generate funds to provide more essential items and to set rules.

The committee soon received offers of help from other local parents committed to making the Drop In Centre a long-lasting success.

A derelict workshop in Digby Street was made available to the Drop In and applications were submitted to funders to make the building safe and equipped.

The committee was successful in raising £189,000 from the National Lottery to purchase and refurbish the workshop, fit it out with state-of-the-art facilities, and fund a youth work manager.

It set up a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee, and became affiliated to YMCA Scotland for valuable advice and support.

BBC Children in Need awarded £10,000 providing extra youth provision and equipment, and in 2002, Sir Norman Arthur, the then Lord Lieutenant of the Stewartry, officially opened the new facility.

In the meantime, some parents on the committee had the idea of opening a charity shop using an empty building on the High Street.

In 2006, a successful funding application to the Scottish Government Seedcorn Fund enabled the purchase of building, and today, this shop plays a vital role within the organisation.

In June 2006 the organisation and over 50 volunteers were awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

This year Gatehouse of Fleet YMCA Drop In Centre celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Former chairwoman Josephine Cameron said: “We celebrate the efforts made by so many local people to ensure the Gatehouse of Fleet YMCA Drop In Centre was set up in a self-sustaining way and thank all those who continue to support it.

"We are also commemorating all the achievements of the young people during the last quarter century.

In the early years, many trips were organised beyond Gatehouse – five young people attended the YMCA Europe 2008 meeting in Prague, another group took a trip to see the sights in London, and another funded and organised themselves a trip to Rome.

"Overnight trips to Galloway Sailing Centre , YMCA Wiston Lodge and Aviemore were also popular. Two of our young people also volunteered to represent YMCA Scotland on the Scottish Youth Parliament.”

Today, the young people enjoy a variety of projects and events regularly offered by the Youth Work team, including, music workshops, homework clubs, pool and darts, table tennis, cooking, art and craft workshops, movie evenings, healthy eating, mental health and wellbeing sessions, music lessons, tennis lessons, mountain biking, sport and recreation activities, cycling trips, beach clean-ups, cinema trips, and sponsored walks.

A new project has started with local businesses to enable the young people to become aware of local jobs and help that can be given in gaining employment.

During the school holidays Gatehouse YMCA joined with D&G YouthWork and the other YMCAs in Dumfries and Galloway to deliver Resilient Youth, an exciting new project delivering outdoor activities to local youths.

Many young people over the years have greatly benefited from their Drop in Centre by gaining confidence and experiencing social interaction and life skills. Some have returned to assist as youth workers at sessions.

Some live and work locally while others have taken up employment out with the area, but all have good memories of the Drop in Centre and the impact it had on their lives during their teenage years.

A 25th anniversary celebration afternoon tea will take place at the Mill on the Fleet on Saturday, September 11, from 3-5pm.

The newly appointed Lord Lieutenant of the Stewartry, Lord Sinclair will officially open

the celebration.

Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson will be in attendance having submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament to mark the 25th anniversary.

Also attending will be councillors Jane Maitland and Pauline Drysdale together with the CEO and vice-chairman of YMCA Scotland, Kerry Reilly and Sarah Turner.

Young people who attend the Drop In Centre will be providing the entertainment, with the speeches starting at 3.45pm.

Current chairwoman Lesley Richmond said: “The continued success of this project over the past 25 years has only been possible because of the on-going commitment and support of local residents, young people, businesses, visitors, and funding organisations, most recently D&G Youthwork 10,000 Voices, The Holywood Trust, and the Murray Usher Foundation.

“Our 25th anniversary event is a big thank you to all those who set up and nurtured the Drop In all those years ago.

"A reunion weekend for all the youths who have been members is being planned, as well as a special event for all our current and past volunteers. It is going to be a busy year!”