THE Samaritans in Huddersfield are celebrating an eventful year.
In the past 12 months, the Huddersfield branch has moved from Trinity Street to New North Parade, is celebrating its 35th anniversary and has gained a new director.
On top of that, the national Samaritans charity is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
It was founded in 1953 by vicar Chad Varah in St Stephen's Parish Church, Walbrook, London.
Mr Varah found many desperate people were in need of someone to talk to in confidence so he began running an emergency phone line by himself.
This eventually grew into the huge international organisation the Samaritans is today.
Today there are volunteers to offer a listening ear by phone, by mail, at drop-in centres and even via email.
`Festival' volunteers also tour major events providing a listening ear for young people, while other volunteers help in a non-listening capacity - by raising funds, for instance.
New Huddersfield director Phil - all Samaritans are known only by first names - took over the reins in September.
He had worked at the branch for two and a half years prior to being voted into office.
Since his election, Phil has led Huddersfield Samaritans in celebrating the 50th and 35th anniversaries with a book sale at the Methodist Mission, jazz and brass band concerts and charity collections in the town centre.
He said: "The fundraising is important as we are self-financing.
"We get no central grants and our charity shop in Marsh keeps us going."
Phil's main aim as new director is to recruit more volunteers from ethnic minority groups.
He said: "Our volunteer base is not representative of the community we serve.
"We have this image of being white and middle class."
Currently, Huddersfield has 56 active volunteers who keep the base open from 10am until 10pm on weekdays.
Calls to the centre on 01484 533388 or to the national helpline on 08457909090 are answered around the clock.
Huddersfield also operates an email `listening' service via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteers are always needed. They must be aged over 18, non-judgemental and able to listen and they must be able to spare four hours a fortnight and eight night shifts a year, or alternatively four hours a week.
Phil said: "Our philosophy is that a person's life is their own responsibility. We are not an advice line. But we can give them the number of someone who can help if they have a specific problem.
"We are mainly there to give people the opportunity to explore their feelings."
Contact the centre on 01484 533388 or visit www.samaritans.org.uk