On 7th February 1997, individuals from different Churches in Ballynahinch formed a group with the aim of establishing a drug and alcohol free Youth Cafe / Youth Centre in Ballynahinch.
The group consisted of David Dunlop (Associate Pastor in Ballynahinch Baptist Church), Keith Gillespie (Who led a youth group in Ballynahinch Congregational Church at the time), Leslie Patterson (a Youth Leader in Edengrove Presbyterian Church at the time), David Stanfield (At the time a chaplain at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown – involved in “Mixers” alcohol free bar) and John Unsworth (Youth Leader in Ballynahinch Methodist Church at the time).
They were concerned about the general level of despair among young people in the area. In particular there had been a number of suicides and attempted suicides amongst young people. In fact the local Clergy had been informed by Health Care practitioners that the level of suicide and attempted suicide in our town was amongst the highest in the province.
Other reasons which motivated us to start this project included:
- The desire for us as Christians to express God’s love to all young people in our area
- The lack of a positive alternative to pubs in the area
- The need for information / help with drug and alcohol related issues
- The desire for young people to see a positive future for themselves in our community
- The need to address the historic problems brought about by sectarian prejudice in Ballynahinch
Our First Steps
They spent quite a lot of time looking for suitable premises. An exercise that seemed to provide us with little but frustration at first. Eventually however premises did become available and we were overwhelmed by the support shown to this project by individuals from local churches.
Over £25,000 was pledged over a two year period. All seemed to be going well when we got some quite negative feedback concerning the building we were planning to rent. If it weren’t for a local architect (Gary Harpur) and estate agent (Graham Palmer) checking the premises out on our behalf we may have ended up with premises needing a lot of money spent on them just to get them compliant with current regulations … never mind kiting the place out! It looked like we were back to the drawing board.
The Group Grows
The group expanded to 8 people with the addition of Cathy Bolloert (Volunteer Youth Worker in 1st Presbyterian Church, Ballynahinch at the time), Mark Charles (Youth & Community Worker and Youth Leader in Ballynahinch Methodist Church at the time ) and Jane Martin (Probation Community Officer at the time).
The “new blood” along with an expanded base of knowledge and experience helped give us a bit more momentum. We were also accepted as a YMCA Satelite which meant that we got the expert help of Peter Crory from Lisburn YMCA … and all we had to do was acknowledge their support – which we did gladly. Where else in this world can you get such good help for just having to say “thank you”?
Suitable premises did become available soon. We were made aware of the old shirt factory which we may have been able to lease from Mr. Bertie Harper. Mr. Harper has been very supportive of this project and has been very helpful in allowing us to get the premises at an affordable rent.
Graham Palmer was a great help in checking out the premises and helping us to understand the terms of the lease – where our responsibilities start and end. Gary Harpur has also made a huge effort in checking out the building, drawing up plans for us and liasing with the local planning office – to make sure we’re doing things by the book. So many people and companies have helped us to transform our building into what we believe is a high quality Youth Centre.
The edge finally opened its doors in October 2000 with the help of so many people in and around our community. Since then the Edge has grown to become an integral part of youth development and provision in Ballynahinch providing programmes such as drop-in facilities, music nights, multi-media events, training, bible studies, international mission trips, outdoor adventure weeks, community relations programmes, arts & crafts and much more.