Luton octogenarian June King has been volunteering for Samaritans for 31 years.
She vividly recalls the Luton branch opening 50 years ago because she was then married to the deputy mayor, Bert King, who officiated.
She says: “It was in a church hall in Alma Street and we were taken into a little room which had only a chair and a table, no other furniture.
“The first call came through and then we had a small glass of sherry. It was very low key.”
June has been one of the charity’s most loyal volunteers, although she’s quick to point out that several others have served longer.
And she claims the need for the service is just as great today as it was when she started.
“The only thing that’s changed is the technology,” she says. “There are lots more ways people can get in touch – by email, texts, calling in.
“But probably the biggest innovation was the introduction of the single national telephone number. This meant there was always someone at the end of the line – when we just had the local number, it was often engaged.”
She says then, as now, they were always in need of more help and support.
“The whole office is run by volunteers,” she explains. “The admin, training, everything. And in addition they do their commitment of one duty a week. It’s a very good organisation. We support callers, as well as each other.”
> If you’d like to be involved, write to Samaritans at 33 Cardiff Road, Luton LU1 1PP or email email@example.com