In February 1992, Athlone Samaritans started their service to offer emotional support to anyone who was lonely, isolated, distressed, or despairing and to people who were having thoughts about ending their lives. In recognition of the work of Samaritans for the past 20 years, Athlone Town Council hosted a civic reception last week.
Deirdre Collins had long recognised that there were many people in the community who were suffering loneliness, isolation, and despair and who felt they had nowhere to turn for support. She set about finding out what would be needed to set up a Samaritans branch in the town. Local support and fundraising were two main issues to be addressed and not just on a once-off basis. A public meeting was organised in April 1991 to gauge public support for the initiative and having received an overwhelming endorsement from the people of Athlone and the surrounding area, a recruitment drive was organised to select the first Samaritan volunteers. Various fundraising activities were undertaken by the ABC (Athlone Bachelors Club ) and by local and countywide businesses and the general public were hugely supportive. The first group of volunteers travelled to Galway to receive their training and Athlone Samaritans opened at 3 Court Devenish on February 1, 1992 with 70 volunteers.
Deirdre Collins became the first director of Athlone Samaritans and she has continued to play an important role in the life of the branch over the past 20 years.
Teresa Bell is the current director of the Athlone Samaritans. At the recent civic reception Ms Bell said that it was immensely important to have that recognition and endorsement for the level of unpaid dedication involved by hundreds of volunteers in providing the Athlone Samaritans service over the past 20 years. She said it was a great testament to the individual commitment of volunteers and their training that 10 of the original volunteers were still serving with the branch and she thanked all past and currently serving volunteers for their important and dedicated contribution.
Athlone Samaritans currently has 70 volunteers and are looking for additional volunteers.
The Samaritans 24 hour helpline is 1850 609090 , email [email protected], or send a letter to Samaritans, 3 Court Devenish, Athlone, Co Westmeath.