A TOWN'S biggest employer has made a major contribution to making its temporary hub for young people a permanent fixture.

The WEC Group has become the latest 'gold patron' for Youth Zone Darwen taking it ‘tantalisingly close’ to its £250,000 fundraising target.

The company, established for more than 40 years, grew from a small welding and fabrication shop in a makeshift shed in Darwen into one of the largest manufacturing companies in Europe employing more than 850 across the UK with almost half in the town and neighbouring Blackburn.

It joins several other local firms - including Multevo, Brookhouse Aerospace, Darwen Bars and Leisure and S.T Murphy Transport - in sponsoring the project.

In January an appeal was launched to raise £250,000 to make a temporary Youth Zone Darwen – launched in response to the pandemic - permanent.

The cash is needed to transform Meeting Places in the town centre into a state-of-the-art modern facility for Darwen’s young people.

Sessions would also be held at AFC Darwen, DACA’s Sport Centre, Darwen Library Theatre and Junction 4 Skatepark.

WEC Group managing director Steve Hartley, said: “As a company, we’re passionate about supporting the local community in Darwen.

“We’re also committed to investing in young people – particularly through our award-winning apprenticeship scheme.

“Having heard about the fantastic work that Darwen Youth Zone is doing and the difference it’s already making in the town, we’re delighted to be the new gold patrons.”

Thanks to donations from businesses, patrons and Blackburn with Darwen Council, the sessions have been extended to run seven days a week for all youngsters in the area aged eight to 19.

Youth Zone Chief Executive, Hannah Allen said: “We are incredibly thankful to WEC Group for agreeing to become a gold patron of Youth Zone Darwen – their support is really important to us and will help make a real difference to young people’s lives.

“By becoming a gold patron, it also takes us tantalising close to our fundraising target of £250,000 which is incredible in such a short time.”

Phil Riley, he new leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “Despite having sites across the country, WEC Group has long focused its charitable efforts in Darwen.

“For me, it’s been fantastic to see the outpouring of support for the Youth Zone Darwen fundraising drive with the first £250,000 already within touching distance."

Youth Zone Darwen will need to raise £250,000 annually to finance its operations.