Addressing the monthly meeting of Athlone-Moate Municipal District, Athlone Deputy Mayor, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, called on his fellow elected representatives and members of the council executive to host a civic reception to recognise the extraordinary work of the Athlone Midlands Samaritans, who celebrate their 30th anniversary in Athlone this month.
“Athlone and Midlands Samaritans Branch was established on February 1 1992, the catchment area for the branch incorporating counties Westmeath, Offaly, Longford and Roscommon.
“In common with all other branches of the Samaritans around the country, the Athlone Midland branch provides a non-judgemental 24/7 listening service to anyone who is despairing, suicidal, experiencing loneliness or simply needs to talk about their troubles in complete confidence.
“Incredibly, there are 95 volunteers working within the Athlone branch and the service responds to an average of 23,000 calls every year.
“There is also an outreach team as part of the service that give talks to schools and to other organisations in the community, raising awareness of the work and services of the Samaritans, though this has been paused due to Covid-19. A facility for people to call personally to the Samaritan Centre has also regrettably had to be suspended due to the pandemic.
“The branch is an entirely voluntary, unpaid organisation. It costs about €40,000 per annum to keep the branch operational. Expenses include maintenance of the branch centre, telephone costs, insurance, heat and light and volunteer training with the branch being dependent upon fundraising and donations and it is through the generosity of the community that it has been able to maintain its service down through the years.
“As the branch is 30 years old this year, I propose that we bestow a civic honour on the Athlone Midlands Samaritans to recognise and pay tribute to this amazing service to the people of the four counties aforementioned and in particular to recognise the thousands of hours of commitment provided by many volunteers over all the years.
“An extraordinary example of the commitment of those involved is in the fact that 13 individuals who started with the branch in 1992 are still volunteering on a weekly basis.
“I propose that we bestow the highest honour available to us on the Athlone Midlands Samaritans,” Cllr O’Rourke asserted.
The motion received overwhelming support from the Councillors present at the remotely hosted meeting with Fine Gael Councillor, noting that the Athlone Midlands Samaritans volunteers were “ unsung heroes” who have managed to “keep families together” in our rural and urban communities.
Independent Councillor, Paul Hogan, noted that the branch volunteers provided an invaluable contribution to local society from a “mental health and awareness” perspective, lauding their efforts over the 30 years of operations.