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Special retirement gifts for long-serving members of staff

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Special retirement gifts for long-serving members of staff

Picture-perfect portraits painted by a volunteer made wonderful retirement gifts for two long-serving hospice staff members.

With more than 44 years of service combined, St Nicholas Hospice Care wished two dedicated staff members a happy retirement with a special event on Thursday, 4 November.

Attended by Roy Brame, the Chairman of Breckland Council and Chairman of West Suffolk Council Margaret Marks, the outdoor presentation saw hospice nurse Louise Whitehead and hospice care assistant Penny Gunsman presented with portraits painted by Thetford artist Chris Goddard.

Following being diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2020 and catching Covid at Christmas, Chris set herself the challenge of painting the portraits of the health professionals who helped her through her cancer journey, her way of saying ‘thank you’ for amazing care at a time when health professionals had the massive additional pressures of working through the Covid pandemic.

Chris said: “When I received my breast cancer diagnosis in November 2020, I decided that I needed to focus on something purposeful and meaningful, so set myself the challenge of painting the portraits of the health professionals I encountered on my journey.

“I began with the Multi-Disciplinary Breast Care and Oncology teams at West Suffolk Hospital, and it grew from there. I became hooked on painting, and I haven’t stopped since. I have now widened the net to paint others loosely connected to myself and who make a difference in our local community.”

“I took up painting about two years ago when I did a 12-week, part-time art course and until January this year, I wouldn’t have believed it possible that I would attempt to paint people and certainly not a portrait – I have now painted 57 portraits!

“I have volunteered at the hospice on and off for about five years and am well aware of the huge difference it makes to so many people, so when I was contacted about contributing to the legacy wall and asked if I’d paint some portraits, I was more than happy to do so.”

As well as celebrating Louise and Penny, the occasion also acknowledged the dedication and hard work of staff throughout the pandemic. A legacy wall that will document the hospice’s endurance of the pandemic is also being created.

Cllr Roy Brame, Chairman of Breckland Council, commented: “I was delighted to help with the presentation and acknowledge the vital work that has taken place during the pandemic by our frontline workers.

“I know this wonderful artwork will be treasured by the staff and act as a constant reminder of our appreciation for their efforts over the last 18 months.”

With more than 28 years of service, hospice nurse Louise joined St Nic’s in March 1993, with hospice care assistant Penny initially starting at the hospice as a bank carer in 2004, before becoming a permanent member of staff in 2005.

Pippa Sharp, the hospice’s lead nurse (inpatients) and nurse education lead, said: “While we will all miss Louise and Penny an enormous amount, we wish them all the very best for their retirement. We are grateful to both of them for their many years of service and dedication to the hospice.

“Their compassionate care has supported so many people in the last days and moments of their lives, and the comfort and support they have provided families has made such a difference.

“They are both such valued members of the team, and we were all so pleased that we were able to celebrate them with a small event. On behalf of the team at St Nic’s, I’d like to thank them for everything they have done.”

Louise will officially retire in 2022 and Penny later this month (November).