Build it and they will come.
Through the combined effort of scores of volunteers, a lot of blood, sweat and red tape cutting, the Gulgong community has brought to life a new boxing gym and community centre that held its grand opening on Saturday, June 25.
Located inside a long-unused scout hall that was built in 1994, the gym has been fitted out with a full range of training equipment and a full-size boxing ring which takes up the majority of the floor space.
The driving force behind the project was Gulgong man Mark Cummins who was instrumental in getting the project over the line along with a number of other key volunteer community members.
"Kids love it - and adults - there are coal miners who are coming here and because coal mining's quite stressful - but some of the guys said they come in and it's the first time they think of nothing else because they're so focused on what they're doing. They say they're getting their headspace back," Mick said.
The interior has had an impressive makeover, but there is still a lot more work to be done. Butting up against red tape, the team hopes the building can really shine with more financial support.
Already the facility is 'too small'. Registrations have been consistent in the six weeks since its soft open with nearly 150 people signed up currently. Mark said he's stoked with what they've been able to accomplish.
"I'll be honest - this building's gonna need to get bigger, and it can. I think we've still got more work to do. We do need more electrical, more heating, flooring, the rubber mats and things like that. It's just finding all that money. It's functional, and it's fine, but it can't be a lot better," he said.
The building itself needed a lot of work. A number of local tradies all lent their time and expertise to the project to install bathrooms, tile and paint floors and otherwise bring the building up to scratch, their time totalling many tens of thousands of dollars worth of labour.
"I don't know too many places where you can just talk to your local builders and they'll send their boys up that they're paying to work on a not-for-profit, free thing when they could be building a house," Mick said.
Five licensed trainers donate their time to make it all work in partnership with the Gulgong Boxing Club which is part of the NSW Boxing League.
At this stage there are three kinds of classes offered from children's classes through to rigorous boxing training.
The gym is entirely not-for-profit, a gold coin donation at the door is all they ask for beyond a small membership fee which goes towards the club itself.
"Everything's volunteer. No one gets paid a cent. The gold coin donations, they go towards the boxing club. And that's to raise funds, if they want to go away to an actual boxing tournament or anything like that, or for more equipment," Gulgong Real Estate Agent Bill Egan said.
"Gulgong can go away and represent [the] Mid-Western region... and ideally we'll have the funds to give them - a bus - and so forth. So that's why we try and raise a little bit of money on the side," Mick said.
Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders was also behind the project from the early days, procuring $17,000 in grant funding from the state government. The Dubbo MP said he could see the potential of the project early on and is happy to see it be as popular as it is.
"It's just one of those things where there was obviously opportunities there for a building that hadn't really been... utilised as much as it could have been for a while. And just the way they were talking about bringing the young people together again...," Mr Saunders said.
"Small towns like Gulgong often need somebody to take the lead and take the punt on doing something like this. I love to support that sort of thing. If it looks like it's viable, and you've got a few pretty key people that are doing a great job... But also, it's great for mental health, it's great for collaborating on things together. It's a great way of helping mentor some of the young people from the Gulgong area.
"It ticks so many boxes now. And it's one of the little things that makes a massive difference to the community. So I was really, really excited to get the money through and then to be a part of the process supporting it has been fantastic."
Adam Stoddart and his son Charlie bonded over a love of boxing when Charlie was just four-years-old. Now seven, Charlie couldn't believe his luck when the boxing gym opened in his own town. He immediately jumped at the chance to train and now Adam and Charlie are at the gym three days a week, with Charlie one day hoping to become a champion boxer himself.
"Like any young boy he always just wanted to play Ninja Turtles or Spider-Man or Batman, which is resulted in me getting punched all the time. So for Christmas, I bought him a little set of gloves and pads and it just amazed me, within two days, just the power and the skill that he had," Adam said.
"He's such a quiet shy kid and the minute I walked in in that in that door, he was coming out of his shell and he just loves it. It really does.
"Some of the poorest kids around that have nothing or need to get out of the house to get away... they can go there and it costs them nothing - or maximum $3 a week to train every day. It can really make a difference for some people, I think."
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