The Duke of Gloucester Prince Richard visited Eastbourne Samaritans last week to unveil a plaque commemorating 50 years of the charity’s branch.
The Duke, who is son to Prince Henry and Princess Alice and first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, attended an event at The Haven on Wednesday, April 15 to celebrate the milestone anniversary.
He was welcomed to the Bolton Road site by the branch director Nigel Knight, Chief Executive of Eastbourne Borough Council Rob Cottrill, Vice Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex Sara Stonor and Chief Constable of Sussex Police Giles York.
The Duke was given a tour of The Haven and spoke to many of the charity’s volunteers, fundraisers and trustees, before unveiling the commemorative plaque alongside Eastbourne Samaritans’ longest serving volunteer Ralph Homer, chair of trustees Beryl Healy, Nigel Knight and Sara Stonor.
Mr Knight said, “Before unveiling the plaque, the Duke chatted with the volunteers about the work they do.
“He seemed very interested in their different roles in the branch and outreach work we are involved in.”
Callers to the branch want to talk about a range of issues, including loneliness and lack of friends, sadness and depression, drug and alcohol dependency, mental health problems, financial worries, homelessness, gender confusion, self-harm, relationship problems, bereavement and suicidal feelings.Nigel Knight
Last year, the Eastbourne branch had more than 17,000 contacts - nearly 13,000 by telephone, more than 800 face-to-face visits, 350 contacts at outside venues, around 2,400 emails and nearly 700 SMS phone messages.
Eastbourne Samaritans work in partnership with other organisations to reduce suicides at Beachy Head. They also co-ordinate with schools, universities, colleges and the Rebourne Centre for homeless people, as well as supporting patients in the psychiatric ward at Eastbourne DGH. The branch’s prison team also train and support listeners in Lewes Prison and last year, they received more than 1,000 contacts from prisoners.
Mr Knight added, “Callers to the branch want to talk about a range of issues, including loneliness and lack of friends, sadness and depression, drug and alcohol dependency, mental health problems, financial worries, homelessness, gender confusion, self-harm, relationship problems, bereavement and suicidal feelings.”
Eastbourne Samaritans has 94 volunteers aged between 19 and 86, and 17 support volunteers who fundraise, undertake clerical and admin jobs, collect statistics, bake cakes for sale and assist at concerts and events. Mr Homer, the longest-serving volunteer, has been with the charity since 1972.
The Eastbourne branch first opened on February 1, 1965 in a room attached to a local church. It has been based at The Haven on Bolton Road since 1990.
Samaritans as a nationwide charity answered 5.23m calls for help in 2013 - its highest number ever.
Volunteers work round the clock, every single day of the year, to support people when they are struggling.
People can contact Samaritans by phone on 08457 90 90 90, email at email@example.com or find the details for your local branch at www.samaritans.org. The Eastbourne and District branch is available on 01323 735555.