THURSDAY FEATURE: Donington youngsters changing their village’s landscape
Flinders Founders’ members underneath the bust of Captain Matthew Flinders inside St Mary and the Holy Rood Church, Donington. Photo: SG220917-145TW.
Flinders Founders was one of the outcomes of a determined effort to improve provisions in Donington for families living there, a campaign spearheaded by IDEA (Improving the Donington Environment for All) since it was formed in June 2003.
Three years later, a conviction that Donington’s continued progress as a village lies in the hands of its young people led to the creation of Flinders Founders, named after explorer Captain Matthew Flinders who was born in the village.
Margaret Wright, a retired teacher at Thomas Cowley High School, Donington, and secretary of Flinders Founders, said: “Prior to the group’s formation in 2006, there wasn’t a lot happening in Donington.
“So a few people who had businesses in the village got together with Donington Parish Council, South Holland District Council and other interested bodies to form IDEA.
“In 2006, IDEA members thought that if Donington was going to change for the better then we needed to get young people involved as well.
“So along with Thomas Cowley High School and Donington Youth Club, a group of young people came up with the idea of calling it Flinders Founders and two of the original members designed a badge for the group.”
Initially operating as the “junior wing” of IDEA, according to Margaret, the youth group eventually formed its own constition and management committee in order for it to raise funds as an indepndent body.
The aims of Flinders Founders, as set out in its constitution, include the promotion of “a positive image of young people in Donington and to work with other organisation to make Donington a better place to live”.
Chairman Elliott Moran, also Head Boy at Thomas Cowley High School, said: “In the past year, we have organised a huge number of events which include a Halloween Party, Easter Treasure Hunt, open days, bingo nights and a Sports Spectacular at Thomas Cowley.
We get a lot of positive feedback from people who tell us that there is no other group like Flinders Founders around and they are impressed by the fact that young people are doing things for others
“All of the events involved members of Flinders Founders working together in planning and organising what was to happen, along with being reliable and responsible at the events themselves.
“We have also helped out at many village events, such as the IDEA Fireworks Night, Donington Flower Festival, Donington Summer Fayre and the annual Matthew Flinders Memorial Service where two of our members, Amy Bristown and Jess Ward did a reading.
“This year, we have raised money for Macmillan Cancer Support and ITV’s Text Santa Christmas Jumper Day, both of which show that we don’t always fundraise for ourselves.
“Also this year, we have gained four new members who have all learned about working together and cooperating to find solutions to problems, manage money and communicate with adults.”
Flinders Founders’ most valuable contribution to Donington has been the opening and continued upkeep of the Teen Park which opened nine years ago.
Margaret said: “Donington Parish Council helped us in applying for grants at a time when there was a lot of money floating around for youth groups.
“One of the grants we got was from the Youth Capital Fund, an initiative by the Department for Education to improve the provision of positive activities for young people by giving them the power to decide how the money should be spent.
“At the same time, we were given some land by the parish council to open a Teen Park in Town Dam Lane and it was there that we build a skate park and BMX track which is now a well-used facility where any problems are really minor.”
The work of Flinders Founders has been recognised by Lincolnshire County Council with its Good Citizens’ Community Group Award in 2015 and East Midlands In Bloom after the youth group was awarded It’s Your Neighbourhood “Outstanding” status this year for the fourth consecutive time.
Amy Bristow, the group’s public relations officer, said: “The Teen Park is our biggest achievement so far as it adds more of a social aspect to our work for teenagers.
“But we’ve also recruited quite a lof of younger members to keep the group going which is really good because it shows that there are young people in Donington who want to take control of their village.
“We get a lot of positive feedback from people who tell us there is no other group like Flinders Founders around and that they are impressed by the fact that young people are doing things for others.”
Further evidence of Flinders Founders’ success in improvingDonington for young people comes from the fact that it has successfully applied for grants worth more than £200,000 over the last 11 years.
Coun Jane King, parish and district councillor for Donington, said: “Flinders Founders is a group of youngsters who work really hard in the village, organising their own events and taking part in events around the village organised by other groups,
“In these times when youngsters are being blamed for lots of things, it is wonderful to see this group achieving what they do for Donington and they are a credit to the village, their parents and themselves.”
When the youth group was presented with Lincolnshire County Council’s Community Group Award in 2005, the citation read: “Flinders Founders is run by young people, for young people, and its members have transformed a derelict piece of land at Donington’s Flinders Park into a purpose-built area with a BMX track, skate park, teen shelter and gardens.
Coun Rodney Grocock, county councillor for Donington Rural, said: “I have always believed in the youth of our country and, in respect of the youth in Donington, Flinders Founders is doing a sterling job.
“You never read in the local media about bad things happening in Donington and Flinders Founders has to take some of the credit because they are a great bunch of young people.”