Boxer Johnny Nelson was the special guest at the relaunch of a Sheffield gym as part of a project to steer youngsters from crime.
Unity Gym, formerly based on Eldon Street, in the city centre, has moved half a mile to Wellington Street, Broomhall.
The opening ceremony was attended by former world champion cruiserweight boxer Johnny, who told young people gathered for the event: “You are lucky to have this facility. Use it and respect it.”
The gym is among projects across Sheffield supported by a £680,000 Home Office grant, under the council’s No More Wasted Lives project which keep teenagers and young adults away from crime.
Efforts are paying off - with Sheffield Council last week revealing Sheffield has the lowest rate of violent crime of any major British city – although officials admit there is more to do.
Saeed Brasab, who runs the gym, said: “With the funding, we’ve been able to buy some more equipment and move into bigger premises.
“We’ve got a good offer now for the guys who come to train here.
“All the staff here are volunteers. Everyone gets involved in the upkeep of the facilities. We’re like a big family.”
The gym’s whitewashed walls aim to inspire – with motivational messages such as ‘this is where new strength is born’ and ‘nothing is impossible. The very words say I’m possible’.
Abdi Hussein, who mentors at the gym, said: “The young people know that when they come here they have to leave anything they’ve got going on behind them.
“The atmosphere here is calm and disciplined and there’s mutual respect.”
Nikesh Rathatha, a local student, said: “Everyone’s welcome here. People help you train and you feel like part of the community.”
Training and mentoring at the gym has helped turn around the lives of young people from troubled backgrounds.
Jama Ahmed, 24, of Broomhall, who volunteers at the gym, said: “Where I grew up there was always a temptation to get into trouble. Before I knew it, I was in prison.
“My aim now is to become a football coach and I am working hard on this with Unity. I never want to get in trouble again.”
Saeed said: “Some young people come here with a host of problems and we can signpost them to the right places and give them a safe environment to be in.
“The results we’ve seen so far have been incredible.”
Coun Jackie Drayton, council cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said at the gym relaunch: “I’d like to congratulate everyone in the community who has come together to make this happen and wish it all the very best.”
■ Unity Gym is based at Unit 6, Devonshire Business Park, Wellington Street, It is open from 8 am daily. For details, call 07946 145743.