A youth group in Morpeth is going from strength to strength.
Mike Brown started Shield, sessions for which take place at New Life Morpeth in Dacre Street each Friday during term time from 6.30pm to 8.30pm, in 2017.
The club – a non-profit organisation – provides a range of activities for children between the ages of five and 16.
The first trip it organised was to Northumberland Country Zoo, near Felton, and there was a recent visit to Pegswood Fire Station.
Mr Brown said: “We have changed the structure from two sessions in one evening to one longer session with all ages included within.
“At the beginning of the session, all children are together for a story from the Bible and a fun game, which is themed around the story.
“After the game, we split up the ages and do age appropriate activities – the older kids go into the back hall and play with the pool table, table tennis, Nintendo Wii and other various things we have set up and the younger children do crafts and more games in the main hall.
“One of our main volunteers, Clive Kemp, recently purchased a minibus.
“This vehicle was a huge help with the trip to the fire station and with the visits being so popular, the team at Shield have planned many more, including Newbiggin Lifeboat Station, Centre for Life, cinema, a train trip and star gazing in a local observatory.
“A couple of the team at Shield, including myself, come from a Boys Brigade (BB) background and I personally have a lot of inspiration from Jim and Rhona Dunn that ran BB in Morpeth for so many years.
“They ran it centred around God, keeping faith as the core, and they also kept it super fun – building friendships, skills and memories that lasted a lifetime.
“This is what I want to achieve at Shield, only without the large subs that families need to pay each term, especially with those families with more than one child.
“We started off with sessions being 50p, but this has now been changed to a suggested donation, which means the families that may not be able to afford it can come and children are not left out.
“Our first sleepover is happening in early December, however that could turn into a sponsored stay awake all night.
“During summer term 2019, we plan to have our first camp as well.
“Over the last year we have seen around 60 kids from Morpeth, Cramlington, Ashington and other places within the region.
“As we don’t have the termly subs, not all kids come to every session, so we normally have around 20 or so. Some of the kids have autism and learning disabilities.
“Over this last year, we have seen some vast improvements in some of these kids. It is amazing when the parents mention this to you, it makes you feel like we are all making a difference.
“A few more volunteers would be helpful as our team is currently six people and with work commitments, not everyone can make it every week.
“This past year has been great – it has been wonderful being able to build friendships with the volunteers, children and their parents.
“It is fantastic seeing so many happy people completely enjoying themselves and knowing that I and the other members of the Shield team have made that happen.”
For more information, visit the Shield Youth Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org