A youth centre giving all youngsters somewhere to socialise is going from strength to strength.

Kate Parkman and Chloe Lovell tell Joanna Davis more.

"I WANT to help people have something that I had."

That's the reason Chloe Lovell gives for her dedication to Dorchester Youth and Community Centre (DYCC) where she has become a role model for youngsters.

The 22-year-old mum-of-one from Dorchester has gone from living in supported accommodation to becoming a paid youth worker with the club that helped her so much.

Tucked away in a building in Kings Road that used to belong to the British Legion, DYCC has helped and provided entertainment for hundreds of young people from 11 year olds to 17 year olds since it took over the building in the 2000s.

It boasts facilities such as a music studio, a tuck shop, a basketball court, pool table, video games and a disco. Each evening is aimed at individual year groups.

The club is heavily supported by volunteers and provides young people with a safe, supportive and inclusive environment.

Chloe said: "When I was in year eight at St Osmund's School I started coming to the youth centre. When I was 19 I ended up in supported accommodation at Woollaston Lodge in Dorchester.

"I did a bit of volunteer work with the club after going into supported housing. I love it here. I wanted to be able to give back something back and help people to have something that I had - I had a really good support worker who inspired me."

Within the club Chloe helps to run a mental health first aider course and employs such techniques as a positivity tree.

She is currently collecting items for shoeboxes to give to young people who are living in supported accommodation in Dorchester.

"I know from my own experience what it means to come here and benefit from it," Chloe said.

"You see some of them really grow in confidence. It's really good to see the results from something like the cooking project. For some of them not being able to cook at all to being able to produce their own meals, then they suddenly know what they are doing."

The current number of youngsters using DYCC is 120 children in year seven, 70 in year eight, 27 in year nine and 20 in year 10.

For youth work manager Kate Parkman, overseeing the club has been a homecoming of sorts.

She said: "I grew up in Crossways and I used to go to a youth club as a kid. I moved to Cornwall and did a degree in youth and community work. I moved back with my family and starting doing this here."

A particular passion for Kate is the Networks project for youngsters aged between 16 and 21 who are not in education, employment or training - a project she describes as 'first level engagement'.

"This is a core group that would be sat in their bedrooms on a Monday afternoon," she says.

"We're not trying to be a school. We're engaging them in something we know young people like and want them to feel comfortable here. Our youth workers do cooking with them one day a week. "For some young people it's the only hot meal they get a week.

"If nothing else they come and they learn to cook.

"We know that it's working because we now have some of them coming and volunteering in our evening sessions and that's so valuable.

"We've got 15 coming along in that project and that's a healthy number. They lead quite chaotic lives and might not get along every week but the hardest thing has been getting them through the door."

"For some of them, speaking to an adult is a massive issue. What we're providing is a setting where they can be themselves and not be judged.

"We want young people to have somewhere to go that's not their bedroom. Some young people tell me they come home from school and are then in their bedrooms every night of the week. There's a lot of isolation and I think social media has a big part to play in that. "

As a result some of the youngsters are now on new paths - training schemes or volunteering schemes.

The club has received plenty of support from local businesses for the cooking lessons with youngsters taking part in pizza making at Basili.co in Trinity Street, Dorchester and learning how to cook and then enjoying a meal at Wagamama in Brewery Square.

Kate says there are many misconceptions about young people and Dorchester.

"There's this image of Dorset being a really affluent county but that doesn't cover everyone.

"Mental health discussion is something that's important and runs through everything that we do here."

Youngsters have the chance to take part in regular 'bar top chats' to discuss issues that young people are talking about. And the topics are real issues that are encountered, Kate said, such as abuse and relationships and are tailored to the appropriate age group.

"We try and talk about whatever they are talking about," she says.

DYCC is a charity that receives some financial support from Dorchester Town Council, Dorchester Rotary Club and Dorset Council. The challenge is always attracting funding to keep going, Kate said.

A session held on alternate Saturdays is for youngsters with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and disabilities like autism or physical disabilities. Currently used by around 13 to 20 children, the club has a sensory room that can be used in this session.

"As much as we don't provide one to one support for them there's an element of respite for the families," Kate said. "It's really popular and they do activities like crafting and baking."

Kate added that this group gets the youngsters out of their routine and it gives the parents a chance to talk to other parents and share their experiences.

There will be a new session starting up after Christmas on Thursday evenings called the Paradise Club aimed at the siblings of SEN and disabled youngsters

*For more information on Dorchester Youth and Community Centre, call 01305 266000, kate.parkman@dycc.org.uk see DYCC's Facebook page or Instagram feed.

DORCHESTER Youth and Community Centre is hosting a Lantern Making Workshop on Monday, December 2 from 5pm to 7pm. Everyone is welcome to take part. They are also welcome to join people from the centre for the Dorchester Christmas Cracker Lantern Parade on Thursday, December 5 at 5.45pm from Brewery Square.