Donation saves Selsey’s Snak Shak

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A vital youth drop-in centre in Selsey has been saved from being shut down.

Local housing group Affinity Sutton pledged £5,000 to the Snak Shak, which operates from a warehouse in High Street – saving it from closure after a 40 per cent funding shortfall.

Marjorie Graham, co-founder of the Snak Shak, said: “Affinity Sutton’s grant got us out of trouble.

“As the recession bit, it became harder to find the money for the six-monthly rent and our annual insurance costs for the warehouse.

“Without it, our landlord would have probably given us only a few more weeks to pay.”

Five years ago, Selsey resident Marjorie and her friends set up the Snak Shak from a burger van after research showed the need for teenagers to have a safe place to go after dark.

In March 2008, the project became a registered charity and relocated to a warehouse in Selsey High Street where up to 50 local teenagers regularly eat and play with new friends under the supervision of mostly retired volunteers.

Many attendees come from disadvantaged backgrounds. “Many of the older children tended to hang around street corners,” said Marjorie.

“Teenagers on the streets made older people nervous, so we gave them somewhere to go where both generations build strong relationships.”

The centre, which opens on Monday and Tuesday evenings, provides a large-screen TV, air hockey and other table games.

Marjorie buys products wholesale to ensure the 11 to 17-year-old attendees enjoy ‘cost price’ food and drink in a comfortable environment.

“In some cases, their mums give them £1 and tell them to have their tea here,” said Marjorie.

“At cost price, £1 buys them a toasted sandwich, a bag of crisps, a chocolate bar and a drink, while a local bakery provides free cakes so even the poorest visitor has something to eat.”

The Snak Shak operates on a budget of £12,000 a year.

In a move that would get prime minister David Cameron’s Big Society team purring, Marjorie and her team provided tips to Midhurst Council, which used the Snak Shak template to create a similar scheme, fully-funded and run by youth workers.

With local funding cuts on the horizon, Marjorie believes the Snak Shak may soon be the only youth drop-in centre in Selsey, but with £1,000 funding from Hyde Martlett Housing Association and donations from local councils and St Peters’ Church, its survival is guaranteed for 2011.