A CHARITY that lends a caring ear to those in distress has celebrated 50 years of its Northallerton branch.

The Northallerton Samaritans has held its 50th anniversary lunch at the Golden Lion Hotel in the town, which included a raffle and talk from Lord Crathorne, North Yorkshire Lord Lieutenant.

Branch publicity officer Marianne Hill said the event was a great success – with one of the top prizes being an exercise bike that was tested by Lord Crathorne.

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She said: “Northallerton Samaritans is 50 years old, making it the oldest rural branch in the country, which is quite a coup for our market town.

“Samaritans itself has only been established for 60 years so we have been there from very early on in its lifetime.

“We wanted to mark the occasion to celebrate our anniversary that would remind people that we are here, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for people suffering from emotional distress.”

Mrs Hill said the local Samaritans wanted to highlight the importance of their work, and added that the charity is always looking for new volunteers, be it for answering phones or helping with fundraising, applying for funding bids, or publicity.

She said: “We are always here for people who are struggling. We can’t emphasise enough the importance of having someone to speak to that is not personally connected. Often family and friends want to try and help, give their opinions, but often people in distress just want to be listened to, not judged, and they will always be believed in what they have to tell us.”

To contact the Samaritans, for support or to volunteer, contact 01609-776161 or northallertonsamaritans@talktalk.net.