On Tuesday we had the pleasure of meeting Kerry Whitehouse from the Community Rescue Service (CRS). What was meant to be a story about how we ran the Belfast City Marathon to raise money for their service, turned into so much more.
We got to meet an incredibly inspiring individual from a vibrant and vital organisation. We only really found out more about her, when we got on the phone a day later to get a bit more information about a few things. More on that in a sec.We had 10 enthusiastic runners take part in 2 relay teams (one or two needed a little extra push to find that initial enthusiasm by one of our project planners, Katie Murray, but all completed their leg with pride. John McCann, a Business Development Manager at Synergy Learning, completed the whole thing without breaking a sweat!).
Once we handed over the money we turned the camera on and asked Kerry to tell us a little bit about Community Rescue Service (Watch our chat with Kerry below). We learned that CRS handled 404 call-outs last year alone. That's more than one person a day going missing. Usually this is someone who is in a vulnerable state and much of the time it's someone dealing with suicidal thoughts or mental anguish of some form.
The entire service is run by volunteers and public donations. When you consider this service doesn't end a search until they find a person, you can imagine how much resources they go through and how important it is for them to get support. Last year, one search took 4 weeks to find someone, and they kept going until they did.
Back to Kerry though. We gave her a call the next day to get a couple of details for this blog. We found out that she works as a cleaner during the day. When she gets home she gathers up her kit and grabs a train and a bus to get to their headquarters in Belfast (which she pays out of her own pocket).
When we asked her why she got involved in the first place, she told us that two years ago someone in her local community went missing and the family asked for people in the area to help with the search. She was so moved by this experience that she asked a volunteer from CRS there on the day how she could get involved and has been a volunteer ever since.
Kerry lost 6 stone in the early days of joining the crew! It didn't take long for her to realise that she needed to be fit to cope with the demands of being out on a long search across difficult terrains at times. She joined Slimming World and committed to reaching her goals. It is clear that this is Kerry's life purpose - she is brimming with passion and pride for the service. She said her confidence has sky-rocketed and she loves what she does every day.
She didn't let us off the phone without me committing to support the service some Friday or Saturday night when they patrol the 8 bridges in Belfast for vulnerable people. We already have a couple of people from the team who are also keen to do this some night soon.
Well done to Kerry and Community Search and Rescue and thank you to our team who challenged their own limits to run in the marathon and go to the effort of raising funds.
There a number of ways you can support this amazing service if you're feeling inspired:
Donate money for vital supplies: TEXT TO DONATE. Simply text CRS followed by an amount to 70085 (For example donate £20 by texting CRS20 to 70085)
Donate your time: Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to talk to someone about the many ways they could really use your help on the ground. They need drivers, fundraisers and search support.
Kerry and the team are especially hopeful to find people to build a strong CRS support team in the Belfast area. This is vital to the running of the Belfast team and help the operational volunteers (the trained search and rescue crew) with the day to day running of the unit. Volunteers help with fundraising, collections, maintenance of the unit and helping to provide food and drink on long callouts. If there's a call-out to search for someone during a collection day we end up losing that potential fundraising. A support team member could take over this role.