Booming success sparks volunteer crisis

One of the biggest community projects to benefit Aylsham this century risks becoming a victim of its own success.

More volunteers of all ages, abilities and interests are badly needed to make sure Youngs Park and Aylsham Football Club continue to flourish and offer the town top-quality facilities.

The SOS comes as Youngs Park, which opened in November 2015, marks its fourth birthday and prepares to throw a celebration thank you party, on November 23, for its volunteers.

The committed group of current volunteers was becoming “thinly spread” and struggling as use of the site continued to snowball, according to Ian Potter.

Ian is chairman of Aylsham FC and a director of the charitable trust which owns the 20-acre site and Youngs Park community building.

He is urging people with or without an interest in football to volunteer and help the whole community while giving themselves a sense of satisfaction and making new friends.

As well as being Aylsham FC’s base, the Youngs Park building is also used heavily by many other local organisations ranging from Slimming World, to bridge and karate clubs, a pre-school group and by Norfolk County Council for Speed Awareness courses.

It is also hired for occasions such as christenings, wedding receptions and wakes.

All profit from renting out the building was ploughed back into maintaining and improving the site to make sure it remained something the whole community was proud of and wanted to use, said Ian.

But keeping it all going with a limited pool of volunteers was becoming an increasing strain.

“We opened four years ago with 18 football teams and now we’ve got 30,” said Ian.

“We rent the site out seven days a week and there’s now about 70pc occupancy during the week – 100pc at weekends. What we’re proudest of is the original idea and that more than £1m  was raised by Aylsham FC, with help from the Youngs family and local community.

“Today it’s successfully run 100pc by local volunteers. We now have growing pains due to the successful scale of growth and will need to limit further growth of our football teams and community use if we cannot find more volunteers.”

People were needed for everything from running the bar during events to organising football tournaments.

“We need fresh people with fresh ideas and skills,” Ian added.

The dedication of those who had helped since the facility opened meant it had always made a profit and, with the help of fundraising events and grants, they had been able to carry out more than £50,000 of improvements to the site since opening.

Ian added: “When you go home, as a volunteer you feel good because you are giving up your time to improve a vibrant community hub used every week by hundreds of local children and people from all walks of life.”

If you would like to get involved, email: chairman@aylshamfc.co.uk or ring Ian on 07944 915310

Flashback to when Youngs Park was opened four years ago.

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