A CHARITY which provides often life-saving support to people suffering from distress and despair, is celebrating its 50th birthday.
The Hastings and Rother Samaritans will be out in force in Hastings town centre today (Friday) and tomorrow to mark this special anniversary
Volunteers will be based in a caravan in Robertson Street near Debenhams and have a table in Priory Meadow shopping centre.
As well as collecting donations from shoppers and distributing leaflets and balloons, volunteers will also be on hand to talk to passers-by who would like to find out more about the Samaritans.
A special birthday cake, kindly supplied by the Rye Bakery, will be cut by deputy mayor Cllr Judy Rogers at 11am on Saturday in Robertson Street.
The Hastings and Rother branch has come a long way since its humble beginnings, and there are currently 70 listening volunteers who regularly provide an empathic ear for those who need it.
A number of branch volunteers come from the Hastings and Bexhill area, while others come from as far afield as Staplecross, Robertsbridge, Bodiam and Rye to offer their services.
For the first quarter of 2014, local Samaritans volunteers answered 2,597 calls, 639 emails, 663 texts and spoke to 20 people who paid a visit to the branch in St Andrews Square.
Although the branch is looking buoyant, it still costs £20,000 a year to run, and of course new volunteers are always welcome.
The branch will be holding an information evening for anyone interested in becoming a listening volunteer at St Leonards Parish Church on August 4 from 7.30pm. For more information about the Samaritans visit www.samaritans.org.