New base helps Bury Samaritans to help others

Jenny Vereker, centre front, with volunteers at Bury's new Samaritans' headquarters  ANL-151014-180104009
Jenny Vereker, centre front, with volunteers at Bury's new Samaritans' headquarters ANL-151014-180104009

After 27 years in a 12ft square office in Wells Street, Bury St Edmunds’ Samaritans now have a purpose designed base with space for everything.

The Bury and West Suffolk branch of the national suicide prevention charity now works from new offices in Northgate Business Park, which were the headquarters of the brain injury charity Headway.

Its director Jenny Vereker said: “Wells Street was very very small. We were falling over each other. If we wanted to do training, we had to hire somewhere.”

Now they have a meeting room for training as well as an operations room bigger than the whole Wells Street office, an email and text room and plenty of ground floor storage, so volunteers no longer have to haul their outreach gazeebo up from a cellar.

They also have a kitchen instead of a sink unit and kettle.

Access is also easier for volunteers, who include a wheelchair user and someone with a guide dog, and for clients.

A St Edmundsbury Borough Council grant helped towards the cost of installing a lift and, as well as donations from other charities, Jenny said they were helped substantially by the local community with businesses giving them special rates for work done.

She added: “We had some savings and used those, but that means we have to do a lot of fund raising because we no longer have that cushion.”

The Samaritans have been in Bury for more than 40 years and last year answered 29,436 calls for help. They have 114 volunteers, aged from 20 to 85, providing telephone and email listening every day, including some whole nights.

As well as their 01284 750000 helpline they now have a number that is free on mobiles and landlines 116 123.