There were celebrations this week as we announced the winner of a very prestigious award at a celebration event at Fakenham Race Course.
A total of 90 staff members were nominated for the Gill Chase award - the highest total in the five year history of the award - and the competition was extremely tough, but carer Stella Cason, who works from our Heacham office, took the 2019 title during our award ceremony on Wednesday 11 December.
Stella joined us just over a year ago and the King's Lynn resident's nominations described her as a “wonderful carer who is very kind and thoughtful who constantly demonstrates empathy and understanding".
“She is hugely patient and does it all with a smile. I could not cope with mum’s needs without all of your team and I value Stella’s love, foresight and communication,” said one form.
Stella, who has two grown-up children and a partner Ian, previously worked at a residential care home, and said she was overwhelmed after it was announced she'd won.
"I didn't expect this. I really enjoy what I do. I'm happy here and it's nice when you know you've brought enjoyment to somebody and made their lives easier - that's rewarding enough for me.
"It's lovely to get this award. But, as I say, if I go into somewhere and a service user has got a smile for me, they are happy when I've left, that is reward for me. One of my service users, she put a little sticky note on me that said Stella the Best and that just meant everything to me."
She added: "Extra Hands is a lovely company to work for. I think the support you get makes this company stand out. When you've got everyone from top to bottom working as a team, you never feel like you are working on your own.
"Without the back up and support from the office, we couldn't do our job. They are always there at the end of the phone if you need help or guidance. Our service users are lovely, it's like one big extended family."
Lynda Hilliard, manager of our Heacham office, had nothing but praise for Stella: "She is naturally caring and well organised and colleagues have praised her when they have been out shadowing her.
"Families have complimented Stella about the quality time she spends with their relations and the kindness shown - she always goes that extra mile. Stella is very professional at all times, supporting our service users in every aspect, enjoying the time she spends with them and takes pleasure in listening to stories they have to tell."
The annual event is held to thank carers who have been nominated by their service users and their families for their outstanding work. A total of eight short-listed finalists were joined by service users and their families in Fakenham for the celebration.
One finalist from each office was chosen before the overall winner was announced in front of a packed room. While Stella was the finalist from our Heacham office, Andrea Johnson was the finalist from our Norwich office, and was our Gill Chase award runner-up this year.
Andrea has been with us for just over two and a half years and her nominations said she has a very calm way about her, is always polite and she also pays great attention to detail.
"Andrea can adapt and adjust to the needs of the day and that she is very understanding," her nomination added.
Andrea said she changed her career from complementary therapist to carer and hasn’t looked back since starting with Extra Hands.
She said she enjoys helping her service users in her ‘patch’ of the Taverham and Drayton area, where she heads each day from her Dereham home. “I have absolutely lovely service users and really enjoy what I do,” she said.
Anyone considering going into the caring profession needed to realise it wasn’t all about drinking tea and chatting. “You have to be prepared to get involved and hands-on. It can be very hectic, but it is very rewarding” she added.
"I like doing my utmost to help our service users and make sure they can stay in their homes for as long as possible so they can be stay as independent as possible. That's what my focus is - to look after our service users to the best of my ability. and make sure they are safe."
Hayley Claxton, our manager at our Norwich office, had this to say about Andrea: "This is a carer that everyone would want in their team. She is committed to ensuring that the people they support have a good quality of life.
"She will go that extra mile regularly, escorting their service users to our social events. She has taken the time to really understand people as individuals and she is outstanding in achieving good outcomes for them.
"Extra Hands are very lucky to have Andrea and she was so deserving of her nomination."
The Gill Chase awards were started five years ago in memory of a long-standing Extra Hands carer who died suddenly in 2014 aged 68 and we want to ensure she is always remembered.
Speaking during the award ceremony, Anita Walter, Public Relations and Marketing Director at Extra Hands, said: "This was the fifth year now that we have hosted this award ceremony recognising the fantastic work that our carers do across our organisations. It is wonderful that people are embracing the award and taking the time to continue to submit nominations.
"The judging took place on Wednesday 13 November, a panel consisting of our two Registered Managers and our Training Manager and what a difficult task they had going through 90 nominations - the most we've ever had recognising the commitment and dedication of our staff members across the organisation.
"From these 90 nominations, we picked eight shortlisted names, four from each office, and we selected a finalist from each office, and Stella was named the overall winner."
The other nominees were:
Pamela Aberdeen was one of the longest service employees having recently reached her 16 year service milestone. Her nominations said she always sees life from the point of view of the people she is caring for.
"Pam is very friendly, understanding and she lights up a room. She always puts others before herself, has a big heart and wants to help everyone."
Susan Bloy has worked for us for six years. Her nominations said that nothing was too much trouble for Sue.
"She is always cheerful, smiling and would do anything for you. She has a very kind heart and is always attentive. She has great knowledge of care."
Julie Wooberry joined Extra Hands just over a year ago. Her nominations said she always treats everyone with dignity and respect and that she builds people up when they are feeling down.
"She is a wonderful person who is always cheerful. She understands that no two days are the same and quickly adapts and modified to the task in hand."
John Thompson has been with us for 15 and a half years. His nominations said he is very thoughtful and effective, always very considerate and takes time to have a conversation. It adds he is always helpful, friendly and kind and that our service users always look forward to his visits.
"John's help enables us to stay in our own home without make us feel 'in care'"
Joanne Warrent has been with us for just over four years. Her nominations said that she always acts in a professional but very friendly, helpful and pleasant manner. Our service users said Joanne always brings out the very best in whoever she is caring for, is never phased and does everything with a smile.
"Joanne is caring, thoughtful and anticipates the needs of the people she is caring for. She is always one step ahead and a lovely person,"
Amy Rix has been with us for just over two years. Her nominations stated her sense of humour and chatty style lighten up the days of our service users. Her manner and skills give our service users confidence in her judgement and capability.
"Amy always suggests ways of doing things that will be more comfortable for the person she is caring for."