The Barn emerged as a new public enterprise in Tadcaster less than a year before the coronavirus pandemic struck, with almost perfect timing to allow it to respond to the needs of the town’s young.
Although the building, former County Council premises, hosts a wide range of ‘cradle to grave’ services, it has shined particularly brightly as a beacon for children and young people.
With schools closed and the country in lockdown, they were an age group particularly affected by isolation and few sources for social contact were left available.
The Barn set up holiday clubs and new youth groups, which allowed youngsters to reacquaint themselves with the pleasures of socialising and the opportunity to take ownership of the building as their own space.
That will be extended from September when after-school clubs will operate each day of the week, running into evening sessions.
It has been made possible partly through a grant from the National Lottery, which will help to provide services, including three part-time professional youth workers, for the next five years. They will join volunteers who also help to make the services a reality for the town.
The Barn’s Executive Officer, David Gluck, said: “We have worked hard for two years to get a National Lottery grant to employ more youth workers.
“After the summer holidays, we will be having five days a week provision for young people, from after school right into the evening.”
They have a new skate park, which is attracting up to 40 youngsters a day with boards, scooters and BMX bikes.
“It is free and we are really happy that we have been able to provide it,” he said.
“There has been a gap in the market for the ability to play informal games, street games and things like mountain biking.
“It is great for their mental health and fitness.”
Last year’s summer club provided activities for around 45 children every day, with hundreds benefitting, as a result of the work of both volunteers and paid staff.
“It is very low-cost, it has allowed parents to go out to work and kids to socialise. It also allowed us to get to know our children,” he said.
“They know who we are and are confident about coming here. They feel it is their space.”