Louise Stevenson, manager of the Club United Out of School Club at Glendermott, has had a busy nine months.
Last week, the club was able to reopen its premises after months of hard work following devastation caused by the floods of August 2017.
It was a massive effort on behalf of staff, volunteers, parents, young people and members of the local community to restore and improve the building which was destroyed by the freak weather conditions.
“I remember going there on the night of the flood and it was like somebody had pulled a plug. It just happened so quickly. I’d never seen anything like it. We were here til 2.00 a.m.and when we looked at the damage the next day, I just thought that would be the end of it,” recalled Louise.
“I didn’t see how we could possibly come back from it. Everything was destroyed and there was so much damage.
“It was so devastating for the staff and the young people. We’d been here for 15 years and staff honestly thought that was it.”
Howsever, it was the spirit and generosity of people in the local community which encouraged Louise to set about getting Club United back up and running in its original home.
“We put out an appeal on Facebook a few days after asking for donations and I was blown away by how people rallied around,” she said.
“We had people from Belfast and Strabane and people just leaving down donations of money. We never expected the amount that people were willing to help.
“In those first few hours we really believed we’d have to close our doors for good, but when people are so good you feel like you want to go on. It was overwhelming.
“There were a lot of tears and a lot of hours of hard work, but now we know that the place looks better than ever.
“No matter how hard the work was here, I always knew I could go home and put my feet up at night, but there were people who lost their homes and they lost everything.”
Louise also paid tribute to the young people who use the club and their parents.
“Our customers stood by us and waited and the young people have been great. The younger children were quite upset when they saw the damage which had been caused. The older ones were more positive and now they can’t believe how different the place is. You would never know anything had happened here.”
Louise said she and staff at Club United now want to thank everyone who helped get them back up and running.
“It really restores your faith in people,” she said. “We can’t thank people enough for their generosity over the past few months. We are a charity based out of school and we rely heavily on funding so the help and support we got was so appreciated.
“Now it’s nice to see everybody’s reaction when they come in. We’re so happy to be back,” concluded Louise.