The Ealing branch of Samaritans is 50 years old this week.
On Friday 21st January 1972 in the basement of a condemned church in Windsor Road, the founding members of Ealing Samaritans took their first phone calls from people seeking emotional support.
Since then, 2,242 volunteers from Ealing, Hammersmith and Hounslow have been trained to handle an estimated one million phone calls.
Heena Johnson, director of Ealing Samaritans said: 'For fifty years our volunteers have been supporting our callers by giving them time, undivided attention and empathy.
‘We are privileged today to be standing upon the shoulders of those pioneers to continue providing support to those who need it.’
The Samaritans organisation had been formed in 1953 by the Rev. Chad Varah, vicar of the St Stephen Walbrook church in the City of London. Now there are 201 branches throughout the country, many like Ealing manned 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
The idea of a Samaritans branch in Ealing was first suggested in a meeting of the Ealing Council of Churches in 1970.
A steering committee was set up under the directorship of the Rev. Ray Bunce vicar of All Saints' Church, Ealing Common with the aim of recruiting 100 volunteers and raising £1,000 in initial funding, a sum equivalent to £13,000 today.
Fundraising was masterminded by local businessman Basil Summers, the managing director of Quaker Oats in Southall who became the first chair of Ealing Samaritans.
They found a home in Windsor Road, Ealing in the basement of the church hall of the former Broadway Methodist Church which had been scheduled for demolition as part of a subsequently abandoned town centre regeneration scheme.
On 26 January 1984, having agreed to a covenant ‘not to sell from the land any beers, ales, wines or spirits,' Ealing Samaritans acquired a former Fullers off-licence at 26 Junction Road, South Ealing from where the Branch has operated ever since.
Heena added: ‘I’d like to say thank you to all those who have supported us over the years with donations, legacies and grants. But most of all I should acknowledge the volunteers past and present who have given their time to be there 24/7 no matter what they may be going through.
‘The past couple of years have shown more than ever how we can all be affected by life’s challenges and how important our service continues to be.'
As well as manning the phones, Ealing Samaritans participate in the Rail Industry Suicide prevention programme which aims to reduce suicide on the railways and to support everyone affected by them.
The branch also runs the Listener Scheme at Wormwood Scrubs prison where a group of prisoners is selected and trained to offer emotional support to other prisoners who are experiencing feelings of distress.
A team of Ealing Samaritans volunteers was in action this week at Ealing Broadway Station with MTR Elizabeth Line staff for the annual ‘Brew Monday’ event to encourage people to reach out for a cup of tea or coffee and a catch-up with those they care about.
All Samaritans branches are individual charities run entirely by volunteers and Ealing, Hammersmith & Hounslow Samaritans (registered charity number 1173588) is only able to continue to support those in despair and distress thanks to donations, legacies and fundraising by the Branch.
Here's how to make a donation.