Amazing Sheffield charity volunteer thanked for 50 years of service to disadvantaged youngsters

Barrie Cottingham, with some of the young people who have been helped by the club
Barrie Cottingham, with some of the young people who have been helped by the club
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Some of the disadvantaged youngsters of Sheffield he first helped in the 1960s are now drawing their pensions.

But an amazing charity volunteer is still going strong – more than 50 years into his support work.

Barrie Cottingham in 1995

Barrie Cottingham in 1995

Barrie Cottingham has been recognised for his work for The Boys and Girls Clubs of South Yorkshire in a special ceremony.

The 81-year-old is president of the organisation, which supports youth clubs around the region.

Mr Cottingham first got involved with the organisation in 1964, when he worked as an accountant and was in his early 30s.

A special event to say thank you for his many years of service was held at the Sheffield offices of PwC, with those in attendance including supporters of the charity and some of the young people it has helped in recent years.

Barrie Cottingham receiving recognition for 30 years of service in 1995

Barrie Cottingham receiving recognition for 30 years of service in 1995

Mr Cottingham said he first became involved when he working at Cooper Brothers accountants, which is now part of PwC.

He joined to help launch an appeal for funds – and never left.

He said the first appeal he was involved with had been a great success, raising more than £35,000 thanks to donations from local people and businesses.

Mr Cottingham says: “We helped to fund a couple of new youth clubs at the time. If you go back 50 years, that was a lot of money at that time.

Barrie Cottingham (standing) at the club's 2003 AGM

Barrie Cottingham (standing) at the club's 2003 AGM

“The youngsters in the clubs were often apprentices and working at all these companies in Sheffield.

“Times have changed – the sort of problems they have now are far more complex, so it is a different organisation.”

The Boys and Girls Clubs of South Yorkshire was formed in 1942 and was originally called the Boys Clubs of South Yorkshire, mainly helping to provide sporting activities.

Young women were allowed to join in with activities from 1992.

Barrie Cottingham with an award winner

Barrie Cottingham with an award winner

The club now provides vocational skills programmes to young people who have been excluded from school, helping them gain qualifications, while also supporting a range of subsidised activities for youth clubs.

Youngsters who otherwise would not be able to afford to go are funded to take part in things like climbing, kayaking, football, mountain biking, go karting, ice skating, skiing and camping trips.

Mr Cottingham said the charity has altered the services it offers to reflect the modern world.

“It is not just ping pong or football like it was when I joined,” he says.

“Nowadays we talk about a range of things, and help with personal and social development. It is things like employability, sexual health and substance misuse.

“A lot of these young people we get have got problems at home, problems at work, problems in school.

Fun on the water for the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Yorkshire

Fun on the water for the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Yorkshire

“Youngsters can go away to do things like skiing, which they would never otherwise have got the chance to do. Most of the clubs are in deprived areas of Sheffield and South Yorkshire. A lot owill not do that sort of thing unless there is an event.”

He said when he first joined the organisation some of the board had been there for over 20 years since it was first established.

“As a young chartered accountant, these were exactly the sort of people who I admired and as some of them retired I felt for a spell I was left carrying the baton to keep the legacy going,” he says.

“Even now as an organisation, there is something we can do for a particular person that can be life-changing.”

And Mr Cottingham says helping youngsters gain qualifications that can give them the option to go to university is one way the charity helps.

“It changes their lives and in changing their life, it helps the community they are in,” he says.

“My role in a sense has always been ‘have we got enough money here’. Over the years, that has largely been my job.”

And he says he was honoured to be recognised at the event.

“It was a great excuse to get people together who have supported us over the years,” he says. “We also had people from the clubs who spoke for a couple of minutes about their own experiences and how the club has benefited them.

“There are a range of areas where we are helping them with the real world. It was nice they spoke and people were very appreciative of that. It was a very enjoyable evening.”

Mr Cottingham, who lived in Fulwood in Sheffield, but now lives in Cawthorne, near Barnsley, has been the charity’s president for about 20 years and has previously acted as both treasurer and vice-president.

He says he plans to stay on in the post for the foreseeable future, despite being in his 80s.

“I thought maybe I had done my stint and would retire, but I am being pressed to stay,” he says.

Robert Dyson, charity chairman, is full of praise for Mr Cottingham’s service.

He says: “Barrie has been on the board for more than 50 years which is a huge commitment to the charity and to helping young people.

“To put that into context, some of the young people who were attending the youth clubs when Barrie first came on the board of the charity will now be drawing their pension. He is a great asset to the charity.”

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Skiing fun for the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Yorkshire

Skiing fun for the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Yorkshire