EALING, Hammersmith and Hounslow Samaritans celebrated their 50th anniversary with a party attended by VIPs, 120 past and present volunteers, six of the branch’s former directors and the chair of the national charity’s trustees.

During the event at OPENEaling in Dickens Yard, Ealing, guests heard a brief history of the branch from long-time volunteer Mary.

Later, television and radio journalist John Sergeant interviewed special guest Dave Matthews, the Samaritans volunteer from Doncaster who recently completed a 6,100-mile fund-raising walk to visit every one of the 201 Samaritans branches in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Heena Johnson, the 17th director of the Samaritans branch, welcomed all three mayors from the communities it served.

Ealing, Hammersmith & Hounslow Samaritans opened on Friday, January 21, 1972 in the basement of a condemned church in Windsor Road, where the founding members of Ealing Samaritans took their first phone calls.

Since then, 2,242 volunteers from Ealing, Hammersmith and Hounslow have been trained to handle an estimated one million phone calls.

The first HQ was in the basement of the former Broadway Methodist Church hall which had been scheduled for demolition.

In 1987, the branch moved to its present home, a former Fullers off-licence in Junction Road, South Ealing.

As well as manning the phones, the branch takes part in the Rail Industry Suicide prevention programme and runs the Listener Scheme at Wormwood Scrubs prison.

All Samaritans branches are individual charities run entirely by volunteers.