Thirty-nine Samaritans volunteers attended a prestigious garden party at Buckingham Palace yesterday, to celebrate His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales’ 70th Birthday.
Newly-weds, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were there too – undertaking their first public engagement since they were married on Saturday.
Bob Howe, who has volunteered at the Leeds branch for 17 years, was the man to represent the charity in an official photo, alongside representatives from each of the Prince’s patronages. He was hoping to pick up some tips from the Palace gardener on the well-manicured lawn.
“The gardens are just immaculate – a true oasis of calm.” Bob said.
“The whole day was surreal and a fantastic opportunity to speak to such a range of guests about how we train our volunteers. I was also struck by how Harry is such a natural speaker and how at ease Charles was when he greeted the guests.
“Appearing in the pictures behind Meghan and Camilla has caused amusement among my friends and family! I spotted the BBC camera and moved a bit to make sure I was in shot – and it worked.”
The volunteers and Samaritans staff attended the impressive party after being nominated for their commitment to volunteering by their colleagues.
Ellie McGowan, Volunteering Development Manager at Samaritans was lucky enough to speak to the Duchess of Cornwall. “It was a very unreal moment” Ellie said.
“Camilla walked through the crowds and approached me, shook my hand and asked where I was from. When I said I was from Samaritans, she smiled and said that Samaritans does marvellous work. I couldn’t agree more.”
More than 7,000 guests tucked into sarnies, cakes, royal ice-cream and lots of tea from the famous tea tent. Whilst meandering around the glorious Palace grounds, they were also treated to a band playing a range of hits.
Bury volunteer Darran Latham, felt proud to be part of the event. He said: “It was so inspiring to be surrounded by opulence, fantastic music and everyone immaculately dressed, for a second I felt like James Bond.
“What made it special for me, was that it was a day for unsung heroes and ordinary people that do extra special things. It was a melting pot of diversity and everything that’s special about Britain, all with something in common – helping others.”
Over the years as Patron, Prince Charles has met many Samaritans volunteers and enjoyed a cup of tea from a Samaritans mug as part of the charity’s 60th birthday celebrations in 2013. Over his 19 years as Patron, Samaritans has responded to approximately 96.8 million calls for help.
Samaritans volunteers gathered at a special event before the Party held at the Royal Overseas League where they tucked into nibbles and tea in a warm up for the main event.
Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland, Felicity Varah Harding, the daughter of Samaritans founder and Chair of Trustees, Jenni McCartney were also at the Buckingham Palace celebrations.
Jenni said: “We were really happy to have the opportunity to thank Prince Charles personally for everything he has done to support Samaritans. It was a truly wonderful event and an important way for us to pay tribute to our wonderful and dedicated volunteers.”