AN inspirational youth club leader spoke to Darlington Rotarians at their most recent meeting.

Morag Coates, of the Top Deck youth club, in Parkgate, told how hundreds of young people had found a place of security and friendship with the group, which opened in 1992.

It started life as the Basement Club in an unused area under Grange Road Baptist Church.

Its popularity saw it quickly outgrowing the premises and a 1994 appeal, supported by then-MP Alan Milburn saw it move on.

Four member companies from the Employers Forum undertook the task of removing an old boiler room refurbishing the building and installing a new kitchen area.

The club continued to go from strength to strength with scores of youngsters from all parts of the town visiting every night playing games and engaging in many discussions.

Mrs Coates and a small voluntary team were totally committed to its development and in 1997 it came as a major disappointment when after long and protracted negotiations they were asked to vacate the premises.

In 1998 they found premises in Parkgate Chambers and after securing the necessary planning permission, the same group of Employers Forum members generously stepped in with a major refurbishment to create the sort of space that would provide the facilities that Mrs Coates and club members had hoped for.

When opened in 1998 the members after much discussion decide that it would be called Top Deck.

Open seven days a week the club has seen hundreds of young people using and enjoying the games rooms and simply having somewhere to buy refreshments and talk.

Mrs Coates is in the club most nights, making herself available to anyone wanting to talk or seek guidance.