Beryl takes her last call for Derby Samaritans after 36 years of service
Beryl Gregory, from Burton on Trent, has taken her last call as a Derby Samaritansvolunteer after 36 years of loyal service. The Samaritans of Derby and District branch will say farewell to Beryl, as she prepares to relocate to Surrey to be closer toher family.
Over the years, Beryl has accumulated an extensive wealth of experience as a Samaritan. She started her first shift as a Samaritan in 1983, after a work colleague had suggested she would make a good Samaritans listener volunteer. The Derby branch is just one of 201 branches across the UK and Ireland giving support for anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide. Beryl is one of 20,000 Samaritan volunteers nationwide who collectively respond to over 5 million calls a year. She says that the secret to her long service is her undeniable passion for the charity, “I have absolute passion for everything that Samaritans do and offer. I think it’s not what we do for our callers, it’s what we are, it’s what we can be for our callers. It’s unique to the Samaritans. I totally believe in the service and how they help.”
Throughout Beryl’s three and half decades volunteering, the Samaritans has undergone many changes. In 1994, the Charity introduced email support for the first time, back then it was managed from one central office, but is today supported by the majority of branches. In 2006, they launched their text messaging service chiefly aimed at the under 25s. More recently in 2015, the new 116 123 free phone number was launched replacing the old chargeable number, making it even more accessible for people to get in touch.
In that time, Beryl has also undergone various changes to her own Samaritans volunteering experience by taking on many additional and prestigious roles. Thesehave included being a Shift Leader, Regional Training Officer, and in 1994, the role of Branch Director for 3-years. She recalls, “When I became Branch Director, computers were starting to play a bigger role in Samaritans, but I had never used one before. I remember having to learn how to use a Word Processor just to keep up.”
Beryl has witnessed big improvements to the Samaritans training, “In terms of how Samaritans do things now, I think we have become even more consistent. We’re not clones but we all now deliver the same training whereas before, each branch wrote their own training packages, with guidance. Now it is the same throughout all Samaritans. This means that a member can move to any branch without having to necessarily retrain and so that engenders consistency of the support we all give.”
She continued to play leading roles within Samaritans on a regional and national scale. She oversaw the running of 13 branches as the East Midlands Regional Director, and later became a Vice Chair of the Samaritans Governing Body, a position that saw her provide governance and strategic direction for the charity on a national level. However, her qualities as a leader and trainer have not been limited to the UK alone. She has travelled as far as Bangkok in Thailand and Cairo Egypt todeliver training to affiliate partner branches.
Throughout her various roles, Beryl is adamant that the most important one wasbeing there for the callers. She adds, “It was an honour to have been involved in all those various roles but the thing I enjoyed most was when I was able to do the thing I joined for, which was to respond to callers. It is still the most important role in Samaritans where we can make a direct difference to people’s lives.”
Samaritans Derby & District Branch Director Eleanor adds, “Beryl has been a true inspiration to not only myself but to all the other volunteers in the branch of whom she has helped train and develop many of them. She has shown true dedication evidenced in the many positions she has undertaken over and above her listening role. She genuinely cares in providing callers the best support. We will all miss her as a fellow volunteer and friend and wish her all the best in this new exciting chapter of her life.”
However, even after 36 years of volunteer service, Beryl is not quite ready to hang up the telephone just yet. She says, “I’ll miss the callers. I’ll miss not giving anything back. It sounds corny but it’s true. I want to continue to contribute to society. So, I will be joining my local Samaritans branch after I have relocated. I can’t imagine life without it.”