Keep up with Armagh i

60 years on St Patrick’s Youth Club Keady continue to ‘invest’ in their youth

However, with 'gaps' appearing in funding they now need a little public support...

For approximately 60 years St Patrick’s Youth Club in Keady have been providing a varied programme of activities and support for their community’s young people.

This is something chairman Tony Crozier feels strongly about fostering and furthering, and he’s not prepared to let looming budgetary constraints get in the way.

Tony – who has been a part of St Patrick’s Youth Club since the tender age of six – comedically refers to himself as the club’s ‘oldest member’ – without giving away his age!

However, speaking to Armagh I, he alluded: “I’ve been at it for as long as it’s been opened!”

And in those years, he has seen the club blossom into the thriving hub of creativity and community that it is today – and he is prepared to do all he can to ensure it stays that way.

Today, some 65 – 80 children from the ages of seven to 18 years of age attend the club on St Patrick’s Street five nights a week, where they avail of indoor activities such as table tennis and pool on a regular basis.

The youth club also put heavy focus on providing their attendees with talks on mental health and drug abuse alongside intermittent cultural excursions to ‘broaden their horizons’ and – whilst it’s all extremely beneficial – it comes with a cost.

Explained Tony: “Some Saturdays we were able to go on trips out and we managed to get them to start a savings scheme where they put away a few pounds a week for months.

“We got them out to Tayto Park last year. That was a major, major trip and there was a lot of fundraising done to do that.

“We also used to take them to Gosford on a Friday evening for a walk through the forest and a play about on the zip wires and things.

“Some Saturdays we were able to go on minor trips but things are tighter now, hence the GoFundMe page.”

The GoFundMe page Tony refers to has been set up by the club to help fill a ‘gap’ created by the rise in costs compared with the grant funding the club receives.

Some youth club members on one of their regular litter picks

Tony added: “It’s the way things are going now. The Education Authority don’t have the same money that they used to have. They still give us the same grant at roughly the same amount but the price of everything has gone up.

“The part of the budget that’s allocated for excursions is a relatively minor part of the budget so we have to watch where everything is spent. To do things like that we have to raise the money ourselves.”

With a mixture of children and teenagers from all different ethnic groups, Tony believes strongly in opening members’ eyes to the world around them, to different walks of life, different cultures and traditions as well as improving their understanding of Irish heritage.

“There’s more to life and there’s a bigger world out there and they are only starting into it. If they adhere to what we are trying to do with them here, it will benefit them,” he said.

“We like to show them the Ulster-American Folk Park to show them their heritage or go to the Ulster Museum. It’s free to get in, but we need to pay for a bus to get them there.

“It’s all done to give them a wider view of things.

“A plan I have in my head for this year is to take them to the Mela in Belfast. That would probably be the only trip this year if I can raise the money.

“It’s an intercultural event that takes place in Botanic Gardens every August. Band groups from all different places, there’s Indian bands, Afro-Caribbean, Irish, Scottish, Japanese and there’s a big stage where all these events take place and tents around with different foods from different countries and that gives them a broader sense of the world beyond Keady.”

Beyond enriching the lives of children living in rural Armagh, Tony also feels he has a duty of care to keep the home of St Patrick’s Youth Club in tip-top condition.

The building itself – which does not belong to the Education Authority – needs to be maintained and, as Tony cannot recall the last time it was painted, he would be keen to get a ‘little pot’ accumulated to keep on top of ad hoc odd jobs.

Said Tony: “We do apply to multinational companies for grants but not everyone is successful. If there’s 10 grants and 100 people apply, you’re very lucky if you get it.

“Last year we did apply for money from Coca-Cola and we got it but these grants are specific in what you can do with them.

Related: Keady youth club receive €5k from Coca Cola ‘Thank You’ fund

“We need a wee pot of money for things that are needed for the club; for upgraded equipment, to leave the place in good order and for all the wee extras that make a big difference.”

If you’d like to help St Patrick’s Youth Club continue to ‘invest in their youth’ you can make a donation to the GoFundMe page here.

Sign Up To Our Newsletter

Most read today

More in Keady