One Of Life’s Gems!

When news spread that the Croxteth Gems youth centre had been saved from potential closure, residents from the local community flocked to the venue to join the celebrations.

Many were in floods of happy tears at the news almost 12 months ago that the hugely popular and long-standing organisation’s future was secure for at least another three years.

Little wonder, given the range of activities and enjoyment provided to young people of different ages from the local area.

England footballing ace Wayne Rooney used to attend Gems when a youngster himself, and it provides such a vital service to the Croxteth community.

“The Gems has always been a big part of this community,” says co-ordinator Jean Hannah.

“The whole culture of the Gems and our beliefs is that we see ourselves as a big house where all the kids can come together as one family.

“Last year came as a massive shock because Croxteth Gems had never been at risk before.

“The City Council has always been very generous to us but the cuts that they had to put in place impacted on organisations like ours.

“We put in a continuation bid to the National Lottery, but we weren’t successful.

“The Gems was under threat possibly for the first time since 1969 and people were quite shook-up – losing the centre would have a massive impact not just on the kids but the whole community.

“Because of the service we provide here we got some great support, with money coming in from the mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, a donation from Cobalt Housing and the ward councillors giving us every penny that they had.

“We needed £90,000 to survive and said that if we could get 9,000 people to give us a tenner we would be o-k.

“We didn’t quite make that but it all helped and with that, and the support of other funders like the Steve Morgan Foundation, we generated enough to keep going and apply again for funding from the National Lottery.

“It was last February that we heard our bid had been successful and we had been awarded £331,346, enough to keep us going for the next three years.

“The Chief Executive of the Lottery delivered the news in person, and often there is an embargo, but, with a community waiting with baited breath, we were able to announce it straightaway on Facebook.

“The CEO was still in the building, and people were running down to us from the local community, many in floods of tears of joy at the news.

“That is how much this place means to everyone, and how much they value the service that is provided.”

Spend a few minutes at Gems and it is easy to see why.

Whether it is in the host of activities from X-box to snooker, board games to table tennis, the young people simply can’t get enough.

The purpose-built building also include a sensory room, soft play area and dance studio, as well as the main hall.

We meet Anthony, a chirpy young fella who says he can’t wait for Wayne Rooney to score for Everton and kiss the badge. Ultimately he didn’t have too long to wait!

Lacey, who can’t stop talking about an energy-packed dance performance which a group of the young people perform with gleeful abandon.

And Nathan, centre stage of that fabulous dance routine, who puts every ounce of pride and enthusiasm into the lively performance!

Where does the Steve Morgan Foundation’s help fit in to all of this?

Well a grant to help towards the cost of a centre manager will have been a vital cog in the wheel which ensured the substantial Lottery grant to safeguard Gems’ future could be secured.

“What the Steve Morgan Foundation has done has been absolutely fantastic for us,” says Jean.

“The money that Steve has donated contributes towards the centre manager’s salary and she is the person that is the backbone behind the major funding bids.

“The fact that we have Michelle here, though the support of Steve, acts as a catalyst to us generating thousands of pounds of fundraising.

“So the Steve Morgan Foundation is making a massive difference for us.”

And, with the support of all the fundraising, Gems is continuing to change the lives in a positive way of the people of Croxteth.

“The whole culture of the Gems our beliefs here is that we see ourselves as a big house where all the kids can come together in a big family,” says Jean.

“During holiday times we provide play opportunities for kids between the ages of five and 12, including free breakfast, free lunch, and day trips out.

“There is no expense at all for the parents because we know that sometimes it can be very difficult for them to manage.

“Then we have all ages coming in during the day as well as events throughout the year – Halloween parties, Christmas parties, and the like.

“At Christmas time we target families in need and try to support them with presents and clothes.

“We really take the whole community into consideration with what we do here.”

A truly vibrant and happy organisation both in the youngsters who visit and the workers and volunteers who take such a pride in what they do – this particular enclave of Croxteth is certainly one of Liverpool’s little Gems!




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