Seaham Sea Cadets have unveiled their new base after giving a dilapidated maritime building a £220,000 facelift.
After four years of hard work, the unit is now ready to double its number of cadets to fill the new premises, and is embarking on a recruitment drive for both cadets and volunteers.
An open evening will be held tonight from 7pm to 9pm and visitors will be able to tour the premises at 26 North Terrace, chat to volunteers and cadets and take part in hands-on activities
Funding for the new facilities, a former navy club, came from a variety of local and national grant making trusts and organisations.
Among its highlights, the unit has a professional kitchen to help the cadets earn catering qualifications and its own boat store for kayaks, rowing boats and power boats, which means the cadets can enjoy a range of water sports.
It can now offer residential weekends for cadets to more learn skills and work towards qualifications including Duke of Edinburgh Awards, meteorology, communications, first aid and marine engineering.
Our cadets make an incredible contribution to the lives of local communities, helping at events, working with different generations and encouraging a sense of civic pride in all that they doLt Cmdr Chris Healy
As of this year, every cadet who reaches the rate of Ordinary Cadet will be able to achieve a BTEC Level 1 Certificate in Teamwork, Personal Skills and Citizenship at no cost.
Leading Cadet Ethan Barber, 16, who has been with the unit for six years said: “Joining Seaham Sea Cadets has given me some amazing experiences, from sailing around the UK on the Sea Cadets flagship TS Royalist to learning how to fly after I gained my bronze and silver wings on the Sea Cadets aviation programme”.
Lt Cmdr Chris Healy said: “Our cadets make an incredible contribution to the lives of local communities, helping at events, working with different generations and encouraging a sense of civic pride in all that they do.
“Our incredible volunteers support offers valuable role models and mentors for young people, and our units provide a sense of family and belonging.”
Cadets are issued with free uniforms and sessions are £2 each. However, those joining in March can attend for free until April.