A King’s Lynn charity has launched a major appeal for more volunteers to meet  an increasing demand for its services.

The appeal has been launched by the town’s Samaritans in the month the branch celebrates 50 years of helping people across West Norfolk.

It costs around £60,000 a year to run the branch, which receives no outside funding, and its 96 volunteers face an annual load of almost 20,000 contacts – a 15 per cent increase on last year.

The branch, founded in 1968, moved to its current home in Queen Street in 1974 after a successful appeal to raise money to purchase the premises.

At this time, it had 90 volunteers who dealt with an annual case load of around 600.

Branch director Gill Sale said: “Every six seconds someone rings Samaritans. We do our best to answer every call, but sometimes there just aren’t enough volunteers on duty nationally to do this, especially at night, when people’s problems seem so much worse. 

“Our aim in the short term is to increase our listening volunteers to 100. If we achieve this we now have the facilities and capacity to increase our duties so as to ensure we are there when people most need us.

“By becoming a volunteer for Samaritans you can make an amazing difference helping support people when they need someone to talk to or they are going through a difficult time in their life. 

“We welcome and value every volunteer from all walks of life, all we ask is that you can listen without judging or feeling the need to give advice. 

“We will give you an excellent training and will be there to support you when you need it. 

“As a volunteer you will get a lot back, from the satisfaction of helping someone through a tough time, to learning new skills and meeting like-minded colleagues.

“If you feel being a listening volunteer isn’t for you we also welcome help in the office with secretarial and accounting functions.

“Whatever role you choose, we will be there to train, mentor and support you.”

As well as marking 50 years, the branch is also celebrating a major revamp during the summer of its premises.

Work has been carried out to create a duty room for volunteers with work stations where they can provide support for callers and there are facilities for face-to-face visits.

The facelift has also included a new room for the volunteers where they can socialise before and after duties.

All furnishings have been replaced and kitchen and toilet facilities have also been improved.

An information evening is being arranged next month to encourage more volunteers to come forward.

This will be held on Wednesday, November 28, at the centre at 7pm.

The charity hopes to recruit more listening volunteers, fundraisers and help with a variety of administrative tasks.

In paying tribute to the army of volunteers, Mrs Sale said: “Without them, this branch and the very important support our wonderful volunteers provide to so many people in our community would not continue.”

She added: “To go home at the end of a duty knowing you have helped someone just by answering their phone call or email is extremely satisfying, especially when they tell you that just talking things through has empowered them to see the options for helping themselves.

“Our listening volunteers are ordinary people of all ages and backgrounds who are able to listen without advising or making judgements.

“At Samaritans, we are very proud of our excellent training that enables them to do this. We also have a well established support network within the branch which ensures that we care for each other as well as our callers.”

See the advertisement on page 19 of Your Local Paper for more information.