Samaritans volunteers receive honours from the Palace

Four Samaritans volunteers who were given awards in the New Year Honours have received them from members of the Royal Family or attended Palace events.

Samaritans’ longest serving volunteer Alan Woodhouse, 83, who today received an MBE for outstanding services to vulnerable people from HRH Prince Charles, started out as a volunteer at Liverpool and Merseyside branch in his late 20s when he was a teacher.

Alan has been a branch director, trained new volunteers and raised money for the branch during his 57 years as a volunteer. He said: “I am very glad for Samaritans. Because I have now been a volunteer for the longest time, I felt I was representing everyone. It’s not about me as a person because I haven’t done anything a lot of people aren’t doing too.

“The Prince talked to me about my time at Samaritans and setting up Liverpool branch in 1960. I was so glad to meet Prince Charles because he is our Royal Patron, that made it all extra special.”

Joanna Smith, who today received an MBE for services to offender support from HRH Prince Charles today, has been a volunteer at Samaritans’ Durham branch for 14 years. She helps to run the prison Listener scheme, which aims to reduce suicide and self-harm in prisons. Samaritans volunteers train prisoners in listening skills so that they can offer emotional support to other inmates.

Joanna, who is Samaritans’ volunteer Deputy Director of Prisons for the North East, has spent the last six years training and supporting Prison Listeners in Durham and Low Newton prisons.

Of her visit to the Palace, Joanna said: “HRH Prince Charles asked me how long I had been a Samaritan and asked me about the volunteering I do in prisons, and whether I enjoyed it, which I do, and see it is an important part of my work.

“I asked him to thank his sons William and Harry and also Kate for the good work they have done recently on mental health by speaking out and getting the media to publicise how important it is to talk.”

Richard Price, a volunteer at Samaritans’ Chester branch where he is also Branch Prison Support Officer, has also been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to Samaritans and to the community in Chester.

Richard has been a Samaritans’ volunteer for more than 40 years. He has held several positions within the branch including day leader, director, trainer, mentor, outreach and prison lead. He also established a weekly outreach partnership at the local hospital that lasted over 20 years.

Richard, who was presented with his BEM by the Lord Lieutenant of Chester David Briggs on 18 April, travelled up to London this week with his wife Ann for the garden party at the palace. He said: “This week has been totally mind-blowing. At the Buckingham Palace garden party, I met Prince Michael of Kent and we talked about my volunteering with Samaritans, and how we are both involved with guide dogs for the blind.

“It was an amazing day and Ann and I really enjoyed it, and the other events we attended. The meeting with the Lord Lieutenant has also resulted in a new outreach project for the local branch, because at the ceremony, he and I discussed a young people’s mental health project he is involved with in Cheshire. Now Chester director Jane Howarth and I have been discussing the possibility of Samaritans getting involved with the project.”

Susan Green, a Samaritans volunteer at Ealing branch in West London for 37 years, received an MBE for services to education and the community at the Palace on 17 February. Sue, 66, has held several positions at the branch, including director and co-director.

She has been part of a team supporting Prison Listeners in Feltham for 16 years and Wormwood Scrubs for eight, and is involved in outreach work, including Samaritans’ partnership with Network Rail and the wider railway industry to reduce suicides on the railways.

Susan said: “I felt completely overwhelmed and honoured when I heard I had been awarded an MBE.  As Prince Charles gave me the award he reminded me he was the patron of Samaritans, and asked how much it had changed in the 37 years I have been a volunteer. 

“It make me think, lots of things have changed, but the bottom line is that we are still providing emotional support to despairing and suicidal callers, just as I did the very first day I volunteered.  I have been delighted to have been able to be there at the end of the phone for so many people.”

Pam Preston from Dudley who has been a Samaritans listening volunteer for nine years, will attend a garden party at the Palace next week to mark her achievement in receiving the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to Mental Health in the West Midlands. She will receive the actual BEM in September. Pam was previously Director of Samaritans’ Brierley Hill branch, which has built innovative partnerships with agencies such as the police. She is now acting director at Telford branch in Shropshire.

For further information, please contact Samaritans’ press office on 020 8394 8300 or press@samaritans.org.

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Notes to editors:

  • Anyone can call Samaritans, you don’t have to be suicidal. Whatever you’re going through, call us for free any time from any phone on 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch.
  • Samaritans responds to more than 5.4 million calls for help every year, offering emotional support by phone, email, text and face to face in its 201 branches across the UK and Republic of Ireland.  For more information please see www.samaritans.org.
  • It’s the public’s kind donations and more than 20,000 trained volunteers that mean Samaritans is always there for anyone struggling to cope.  Find out how you can support us: http://www.samaritans.org/support-us