HIS Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has paid tribute to the vital work of Samaritans as he unveiled a new plaque celebrating 50 years of the Gloucester Samaritans branch.
The Prince visited the Park End Road branch today to meet volunteers and thank them for the vital work they do to support people through their times of need.
His Royal Highness, who has been Samaritans’ patron since 1999, took time to chat to some of the branch volunteers who have been part of Gloucester’s long history over a cup of tea, made with a spoonful of local honey.
The Prince of Wales said:
“I can’t tell you how proud I am to be involved in such a remarkable organisation. It’s amazing that this branch has been going for 50 years. You are such an amazing credit to this country in terms of what you do, all the time, for so long – I know one (volunteer) has been here for 50 years, others 40, 30 and so on. So you are if I may say so, the absolute backbone of what is required and are here for people who otherwise wouldn’t get the help they need.
“I hope this anniversary will remind you just how important you all are.”
Samaritans Gloucester branch was officially opened as a branch on 24 August 1971 by American singer and actress Eartha Kitt, who answered some of the first calls on the dedicated Gloucester helpline. By the end of 1971, the Stroud Befriending Group joined the Gloucester Samaritans and Gloucester and District Samaritans were created.
Keith Leslie, Chair of Samaritans, said:
“Samaritans has always relied on the selflessness of our amazing volunteers in order to be there for anyone who needs us, day or night, 365 days a year. I know how much His Royal Highness Prince Charles really values the incredible efforts of our volunteers, which is why, as our Royal Patron, he has now been supporting our vision that fewer people die by suicide for over 20 years.
“It is an honour to be joined by His Royal Highness for the fiftieth anniversary of our Gloucester & District branch but I’m sure he would also join me in paying tribute to the fantastic efforts performed daily by each and every Samaritans volunteer in our branches right across the UK and Republic of Ireland. In these unprecedented times, people can take comfort from the fact that no matter what they are going through, a Samaritans volunteer will be there to listen whenever they need support.”
Susan Raftree, Branch Director at Gloucester Samaritans, said:
“It was a great honour to welcome our Royal Patron, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to our branch, celebrating our 50th anniversary.
“We are delighted to have His Royal Highness help us celebrate the 50th birthday of Gloucester & District Samaritans, speak to volunteers, and see first-hand their devotion to supporting people who need it, especially during this challenging time. It is thanks to our amazing volunteers that we’ve been able to be here throughout the pandemic, and over the past 50 years.
“The Prince of Wales taking the time to visit us means so much to everyone here and now we look forward to being here for anyone in need of support for the next fifty years and beyond!”
Kathy Harding, a Samaritans listening volunteer since 1966, said:
“To welcome His Royal Highness to the branch to celebrate our 50th year is amazing. The pandemic has created huge difficulties for many people, and I’m so proud of how Samaritans volunteers have risen to the challenge.
“For our efforts to be recognised and celebrated by The Prince is absolutely fantastic, and very poignant at a special moment for everyone at Gloucester and District Samaritans.”
Anyone can contact Samaritans, free, 24/7, from any phone on 116 123, or you can email: email@example.com or visit: www.samaritans.org.