Providing vital help for rural youngsters

Community projects play just as vital a role in Yorkshire's rural areas as they are do in the region's inner-cities.

When 14-year-old Kara Gregory's mother was sent to prison, the young teenager from Thirsk knew exactly where to turn for help.

"I didn't know what I was going to do next – so I came into the Clock," she said.

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Miss Gregory – now a confident college student of 16 – is one of more than 500 young people helped by the Thirsk Clock youth centre last year.

Established in 2003, the centre offers young people a place to go as well as offering a wide range of support services in the North Yorkshire market town.

It is typical of the grassroots charity projects supported by the Yorkshire Post's Communities in Need appeal. For youngsters growing up in a rural area, such a facility is invaluable.

A wide range of advice, counselling and support services on everything from alcohol abuse to employment are available to youngsters who would otherwise have to travel miles.

"You're quite stuck in Thirsk, because you have to travel so far to get anywhere," said Abigail Homer-McGhie, who manages the centre. "If you need to go to the job centre, that's in Northallerton – which is 5.80 on the bus. The key here is that because it's a social venue as well, someone might be coming through the door for a hot drink or a game of pool – or they might be coming for one-to-one support.

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Miss Gregory credits the Clock for helping here secure both her flat and her place at York College.

"They gave me one-to-one support to help me choose a course, and then they took me to my interview," she said.

Youth worker Martin, 19, said: "If this place wasn't here I wouldn't have known what to do about things like looking for a job. Now they're helping me go to university. This place is my second home."