Sussex Search and Rescue (SUSSAR) works on dozens of cases each year, with members giving up their time to scour the area for vulnerable people at all hours.
On New Year’s Eve, volunteers were called out to a missing person at 5pm – and they were still on the job until the early hours.
Nick Rewcastle, secretary of SUSSAR, said: “They were out until after midnight so they saw in the New Year with friends – as we are all friends really.
“We were called out on Christmas Day four or five years ago and it was one of the best turn outs we’ve had.”
When someone goes missing, police contact SUSSAR and a text is sent out to all volunteers to see who can make it. The volunteers work on the ground to assist police, and the first place to look is always the last known location of the missing person.
Sometimes volunteers can be searching for up to nine hours, so they need good-quality and up-to-date kit.
On top of the £20,000-a-year running costs, last year, the charity successfully raised a further £25,000 to replace their old analogue radios to digital ones, and now it is in a position to recruit new volunteers.
Mr Rewcastle said: “We have now got around 60 members and are being equipped with our radios. People really got behind us. We haven’t been able to recruit for six months or so. It does cost money to bring people on board. Training, supplying them with kit, things like that, it does cost money. But we are in a really good place at the moment.”
SUSSAR will hold two recruitment evenings in March. There is space for 24 people across the two sessions, and usually only half of those will train to be a volunteer with the group. Those who want to go ahead and train to be a volunteer are vetted by Sussex Police.
“They need to show dedication and we need to make sure they are right for us,” said Mr Rewcastle. “We do not want to scare people off, but it involves time, effort and money to join SUSSAR.”
There is a six-month training programme, from March until September, when Mr Rewcastle hopes the charity’s numbers will be over 70. On why people should join, he said: “It is the best thing in the world finding someone who is lost and vulnerable. There is no feeling like it. That is why we want people to come on board and give back to the community, helping those who need it most and their families. Whatever the outcome, we are giving them closure.”
Mr Rewcastle said SUSSAR includes people ‘from all walks of life, from 18 to 65’.
He said: “If you are passionate and you want to help then apply.”
As well as new members, SUSSAR is also looking for a permanent home in Sussex - but it doesn’t have the funds to pay for premises.
Mr Rewcastle said: “We are also currently looking for a base, ideally in central Sussex, where we can store all our fundraising, medical, water team and operational equipment, three vehicles, a boat and trailer, office space as well as facilities for indoor training nights with our 60+ members.”
To find out about recruitment, visit: www.sussar.org
If you are a landowner with possible space to donate, email: [email protected]