Giving young people a brighter future

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A group of teenage school-leavers are being given a fresh start in life thanks to the efforts of an altruistic businessman.

Steve Cooke, who owns The Barbers Pole in St Andrews, set up Kinross-based Gutters2Glory earlier this year with the aim of giving young people whose lives might be heading in the wrong direction a chance to learn new skills and develop self-confidence.

Over the summer Steve took on seven young people and is soon to recruit his first ex-serviceman.

He’s aiming to gain charitable status early in the new year.

Armed with a range of powerful new equipment, Steve and his team travel throughout Kinross-shire, Fife and beyond cleaning gutters and fascias and power-cleaning paths and patios .

As well as teaching them practical skills, Steve also helps the young people learn valuable strengths such asself-discipline, resourcefulness and how to deal with customers.

Every month, he asks them to give three hours of their time working for nothing in order to help people in the local community.

“I left school with no qualifications”, said Steve (51).

“I went into the RAF and when I came out and became self-employed I realised that having no qualifications doesn’t mean you can’t do anything with your life.”

Steve’s entrepreneurial spirit was evident from an early age.

As a young lad, he loved golf so much that he was determined to buy himself a set of clubs, so knocked on neighbours’ doors offering to do odd jobs in order to save up the money.

It was when he left RAF Leuchars 22 years ago that he opened The Barbers Pole, which later became famous for giving away a free tot of whisky with every haircut.

Over the years, Steve’s charity work has become legendary.

He went to Thailand to help tsunami victims in 2004; organised countless charity golf events; raised £10,000 to help Dutch footballer Fernando Ricksen when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and even raised enough money to feed an entire African tribe.

Since moving to Kinross with his wife Arlene two-and-a-half years ago, he has become heavily involved in the foodbank charity Broke Not Broken.

“Gutters2Glory has given the young lads the chance to meet people in every walk of life, from the affluent to the desperate,” said Steve.

“It’s giving them an experience of life that they might not otherwise have had.

“I understand what it’s like to come out of school with no qualifications and low self confidence. I aim to change that .”