Appeal raises £500,000 for revamp of charity's Victorian headquarters

James Ellis, director of Norwich Samaritans.

James Ellis, director of Norwich Samaritans. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

A Norwich charity has raised £500,000 in fewer than six months as part of a major fundraiser to rebuild its city centre branch.

Norwich Samaritans launched its £750,000 Varah House Appeal in December as it set out to overhaul the St Stephen’s Square site, where it has been based since it was founded in 1964.

The Victorian building is facing structural and damp issues and the charity, which helps roughly 40,000 people every year, is keen to modernise the branch in time for its 60th anniversary in spring 2024.

Norwich City Council granted planning permission and the charity has already raised £500,000 through donations from EDP and Evening News readers and grants from local trusts.

Branch director James Ellis said: “We are delighted with the response our appeal has received and we’d like to say an enormous thank you to all our supporters, EDP and Evening News readers, members of the public and trustees at charities across Norfolk for funding our project.

“We still have a long way to go and will be working towards our final goal in the coming months. We know this project is vital - we predict it will increase the amount of people we are able to help by 30,000 every year.”

Mr Ellis thanked local trusts for their support, including the Rackham Trust, which donated £100,000, Norwich Consolidated Charities and Norwich Freemen’s Charity, which are part of Norwich Charitable Trusts and both donated £100,000.

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A spokesperson for the Rackham Trust said: “The trustees of the Mr and Mrs Philip Rackham Trust are very pleased to be able to support the Norwich branch of the Samaritans in their project to bring their offices and meeting rooms up to modern standards and to improve the facilities available to those using the Samaritans’ services."

They said they were confident the work would lead to "many vulnerable members of the community being helped".

Norwich Samaritans supports people through its 24/7 helpline, emails and instant messages, as well as hundreds of visitors to its branch every year.

Its outreach team also visits local schools, universities, businesses and workplaces, and is beginning to work with local healthcare trusts.