THE president of Penrith's Police Citizens Youth Club, Terry Rae, is now in his 70s and he says the clubs saved him from a life without direction.
"When I was about 14, somewhere in Newtown, I got into a fight — I got into a lot of fights back then," he said. "All of a sudden this police officer got us by the scruff of the neck and threw us into the back of a police wagon."
He later took the boys to the local Police Boys Movement, as the PCYC was then known. The young Terry got to know the club's band, eventually leading to a career in music. "I still play with a large group, the Big Swing Band."
Mount Druitt PCYC manager Karen Quinn said not everyone had a story as interesting as Mr Rae's but it showed what such clubs could do. PCYC also offers sport, special classes and safe places for young people to socialise.
She said that was why the clubs, particularly hers, needed more volunteers. "At Mount Druitt we have two casual staff and only five volunteers," Mrs Quinn said. "More volunteers help us get out during the day to create more awareness of what the PCYC does."
She said volunteering did not require special skills, only a "passionate commitment" to help people.
"People can have an interest in gardening, building maintenance, reading to kids or helping them with their schoolwork," Mrs Quinn said. "Age isn't an issue either; you don't have to be young or sporty."
On the other hand, she said volunteers could learn skills through PCYC, such as administrative or canteen work.
Mr Rae said PCYC could never have enough volunteers.
"I got a lot of fun out of it," he said. "If you can help a kid and that kid turns out well, that's great. I've got a barrister, a doctor, six schoolteachers and a Qantas pilot out of the ones I've helped."
He said he owed a lot to that police officer in Newtown all those years ago.
"If it hadn't been for that guy, who knows where I'd be now?"