A FORMER Chard and Ilminster News journalist and local Samaritans’ listening volunteer is one of fewer than 500 people across the UK to be recognised with a special award to help mark the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.

Monica Wyatt has been a dedicated volunteer with Samaritans for nearly 37 years and was at the Taunton and Somerset branch, based in Wood Street in the county town, from 1986 to 2004, providing life-saving emotional support to people who contact the leading suicide prevention charity.

She served as branch director from 1991 to 1994 and South West Samaritans’ regional director from 1999 to 2002.

In 1994 she was named as one of three 'citizens of the year' by the former Taunton Deane Borough Council.

During this time, she worked first at the Chard and Ilminster News as journalist and district editor and then joined the sub-editing team at the Somerset County Gazette, then based in St James Street, Taunton.

Together with Royal Voluntary Service President, The Duchess of Cornwall, and in partnership with The Big Jubilee Lunch, the awards celebrate outstanding volunteers across the country who are making a difference every day.

On hearing of the award, Monica said: “Being recognised for my voluntary work is lovely.

"I’m still a listening volunteer with Samaritans after 37 years and also volunteer in the deaf community and areas related to mental health.

"This award is also an important recognition of these areas of need for so many people.”

Julie Bentley, chief executive of Samaritans, said: “I am delighted that a number of our incredible Samaritans volunteers have been recognised as Platinum Champions.

"This is a real testament to the time and dedication each volunteer gives to Samaritans and the people we help support.

"Congratulations to everyone who has won an award – you are all a credit to Samaritans and we could not be prouder.”

The award coincided with Volunteers’ Week (June 1 to 7), which celebrates the positive impact volunteering has across the country.

Samaritans has around 22,000 volunteers who are available around the clock, 365 days a year.

Anyone can contact Samaritans for free any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit, or you can email jo@samaritans.org