At a recent meeting held at a socially acceptable distance in the shadow of Smeaton’s Tower on Plymouth Hoe, Peter Keaty the Assistant Provincial Grand Master of the Devonshire Freemasons presented Norman Holmes, Director of the Plymouth Samaritans with a cheque and certificate for £5000 to help them through this difficult time, with more pressure on their services being required than would normally be expected.
Whilst operating under the nationally recognised brand of Samaritans, Plymouth Samaritans are a standalone local charity providing services to Plymouth, East Cornwall and South West Devon. They are responsible for their own local fundraising and need £30,000 per year to keep their branch operating even in normal times.
The Coronavirus lock down has caused the cancellation of their main annual fund-raising event, a literary festival at Kitley House Hotel. The lock down has also restricted their external fundraising activities. They were also to be the nominated charity for the Ladies Night of Philammon Masonic Lodge who are based in Plymouth, which has had to be postponed until next year due to coronavirus.
The coronavirus measures have already resulted in an increased demand for the services the Samaritans provide and they predict that this will only be the start of this demand. The mental health of young adults is being directly affected. The aged and vulnerable are feeling increasingly isolated and afraid. They are also coping with the sad situation of partners who have lost loved ones to Covid 19, who were unable to be with them at end of life nor to have a funeral as part of the grieving process.
The increased levels of desperation and increased suicide risk within all parts of the community will give a rise to the number of people wanting to access the services provided, particularly the listening service, this has made the need to train new volunteers a priority. Many of the volunteers are in the age profile where restrictions apply. They have had difficulty already in maintaining 24-hour cover, due to restrictions on movement.
Peter Keaty, when presenting the certificate said “during this difficult time the Freemasons have increased their charitable giving knowing that organisations such as the Samaritans are in desperate need of help, as are the vulnerable people in Plymouth and Devon. Without them and organisations like them the world would be an even harder place to survive”.
When receiving the certificate denoting the grant of £5000 Norman Holmes said “Within a short space of time, our main income streams have been lost. We do not have any easily accessible sources of funding to replace this shortfall which is why the masonic gift is so wonderful, it means we can continue our work for the foreseeable future without the stress of wondering how the bills will be met”.