AN open house for neighbours was held by Ealing, Hammersmith & Hounslow Samaritans to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

The Saturday evening event at their South Ealing HQ attracted great interest from residents as well as a familiar black cat (pictured).

Heena Johnson, 17th director of the Samaritans branch, said: “We thought it well past time to meet the neighbours - and what better reason than a 50th birthday.”

Visitors were shown around the offices, including the operations room, where the 120 volunteers deliver their confidential phone service.

Ealing, Hammersmith & Hounslow Samaritans opened on Friday, January 21, 1972 when the founding members took their first phone calls from people seeking emotional support.

Since then, 2,242 volunteers have been trained to handle more than a million phone calls.

The first headquarters was in the basement of the church hall at the former Broadway Methodist Church. It had been scheduled for demolition as part of a subsequently abandoned town centre regeneration scheme.

In 1987, the branch moved to its present home, a former Fullers off-licence at 26 Junction Road, South Ealing.

As well as manning the phones and running an email support service, the branch takes part in the Rail Industry Suicide prevention programme.

It also runs the Listener Scheme at Wormwood Scrubs prison, where a group of prisoners is selected and trained to offer emotional support to other prisoners experiencing distress.

All Samaritans branches are individual charities supported by donations, legacies and fund-raising.