The Chester branch of a national charity is celebrating 50 years in the city.
The Samaritans of Chester & District will mark half a century of helping people in 2017.
The first director was the Rev Gerald Barlow who moved from Manchester to become vicar of St John’s Church, Chester. Prior to moving here, Rev Barlow had been a member of the Manchester Samaritans and saw the need for a branch in Chester.
Liverpool’s Samaritans director at that time (1967-79) was Nancy Kerr (also later a volunteer with Chester) who was very supportive of Gerald’s wish to start a branch in Chester. She interviewed prospective volunteers as well as organising training sessions for them. She remembers how well dressed the volunteers from Chester were and recalls suggesting that ‘perhaps they should not wear their smart hats when on duty.’
Nancy went on to become the first female (national) chair of Samaritans between 1979 -81.
The branch was officially opened by the Sheriff of Chester and, working from one room in Talbot House, 39 Lower Bridge Street, there were limited funds and few volunteers. Branch patrons were the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Chester, His Grace the Duke of Westminster, The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Chester and Alderman F. Barker JP. Talbot House was part of the Grosvenor Estate and the duke let The Samaritans use it rent free.
In 2017 Chester Samaritans include more than 100 listening and support volunteers.
As part of the 50th anniversary the branch would like to hear from former listening Sams and Sams Friends who have volunteered with Chester over the last 50 years.
Current director Jane Howarth said: “We would love to hear from anyone who has volunteered with Chester branch in the past and share their stories and memories. And we would particularly like to find out the date when the branch opened – we know it was September 1967 but we don’t know the actual date.”
It is hoped former volunteers will get in touch and come along to see the current branch and meet 2017 volunteers at an event to be organised later this year.
If you were a volunteer with Chester & District Samaritans and would like to be part of the 50th anniversary please contact Sally at the branch on 01244 377998 or or contact via Twitter @DevaSamaritan or email Sams.firstname.lastname@example.org.