founder chad varah taking an early samaritans call

Leeds Building Society helps Samaritans meet future challenges

Samaritans is responding to thousands more requests for help by text and email every day, as people choose to talk to its volunteers in different ways.

Contacts by text and email were up more than a quarter between 2016 and 2017, from around 683,000 to 868,000.  A web chat option to be piloted later this year will offer another alternative to phoning for people needing emotional support.

To help futureproof its services and boost capacity, Samaritans is partnering with Leeds Building Society, which is aiming to raise £250,000 to help the charity support even more people.

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said: “The money raised by Leeds Building Society will be a massive boost. It’s vital that anyone who’s feeling overwhelmed can access us quickly and easily in whatever way they feel most comfortable with. That means staying ahead of the curve in terms of new technology and attracting new volunteers. Both come at a huge cost to us as a charity.”

Richard Fearon, Leeds Building Society’s Chief Commercial Officer, said: “As a building society we’re based on the premise of people helping people, which is exactly what Samaritans does 365 days of the year through its 20,000 volunteers taking calls.

“Listening is also an incredibly important part of how we choose to operate as a business, and this sits at the heart of what makes Samaritans such a special charity - they listen to those struggling to cope. We’re really proud to have chosen Samaritans for our first charity partnership.”

samaritans caller image

Leeds Building Society colleagues and a panel of its members will be given the chance to choose how the funds raised are spent by voting for one of two projects, to be announced later this year. Both projects will meet changing demands.

The first will see new technology introduced allowing volunteers to move more easily between phone, email, text and chat responses. The second will fund volunteer recruitment to help meet demand.

Bob Howe, who has volunteered for Samaritans’ Leeds branch for seventeen years, said: “From the days of one man and a phone, when our founder Chad Varah took our first phone call in 1953, Samaritans has had an eye on the future. Sixty-five years on, this partnership will see us continuing to evolve to meet the needs of our callers, whenever and however they choose to contact us.”


For further information, please contact or 020 8394 8300 or on 0113 225 7903

Picture caption(s):

  1. Then - Samaritans founder Reverend Chad Varah 1953, photo credit: Samaritans
  2. Now – Samaritans callers reaching out for help in different ways, photo credit: Samaritans

Notes to editors:


  • Anyone can contact Samaritans for free any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit. The number will not show up on your phone bill.
  • Samaritans responds to more than 5.7 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.
  • Just £5 helps us answer one Samaritans call. Go to to help us be there for even more people that need us.

Leeds Building Society

  • Samaritans is at the heart of communities and so are we - Samaritans have hubs in 49 of the areas where we have branches.
  • Leeds Building Society has a target to raise £1.2m for charities and good causes by the end of 2020.
  • In 2017 it helped over 50,000 more people have the home they want and a record 71,000 more people save for their future.