A young carer rewarded for her winning smile and commitment to the job is dedicating the accolade to her late mum who inspired her.

Courteney Jones, 20, followed her mum Julie’s footsteps into the social care sector at the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham..

Julie Jones was a nurse for many years with Pendine Park where Courteney is now also a care practitioner.

So, when Courteney was voted the winner of the Pendine’s 2021 Big Smile’award for she said she was especially emotional as it was a tribute to her mum who passed away earlier this year after battling a long illness.

Courteney, who lives in Wrexham, summoned all her strength to carry on working, all the time determined to put on a brave smile as she did not want personal tragedy to impact her approach to residents at Bryn Bella care home where she works the nightshift.

She has been hailed a champion by her colleagues who voted her winner of the Smile award for her heroic devotion to the job.

Her boss, Lynn Madayag, a senior nurse, who revealed to Courteney that she had won the award, said she  has been a real trooper.

Lynn said: “Considering all she has been through she has done so well, putting her residents first and always offering them a smile. She is a popular member of our team and we are all so proud of her.”

Courteney said the award came as a complete surprise to her.

Pendine Park runs the awards every year to recognise those employees who not only smile, but go the extra mile to help others.

The winners are voted for by co-workers, care home residents and their families. There is a winner in each of Pendine Park’s eight individual care homes plus its housekeeping department and its training academy.

After the different heat winners have been voted on an overall winner is chosen which this year was Courteney.

She will have her name inscribed onto the shield presented to the winner each year.

Courteney first started working with Pendine Park when she was just 17.

She said: “It was mum who encouraged me to join the team serving breakfasts, starting at 7.30am. I gave it a go and I loved it. I knew straight away that this was what I wanted to do and since then it has always been my ambition to follow mum’s footsteps into nursing.”

In a double reason to celebrate, and to add to the honour of winning the Big Smile award, Courteney is also one of four carers at the Pendine Park organisation’s Wrexham hub who has been selected to train as a nurse via an Open University course.

Pendine Park is supporting candidates through the four year courses which are a new staff development initiative launched by the company this autumn.

Courteney is over the moon about her selection.

She said: “I am so pleased because this is as much for my mum as for me. Mum was my best friend and it was she who inspired me to become a nurse like her. She worked really hard at her job and loved it so much. I hope I can one day be as good a nurse as her.

“I did apply for the nurse training course but I had no idea about the Smile award. It was a huge surprise when Lynn called me in to tell me about it. I have tried to keep smiling and be upbeat for our patients, though we have had the added difficulty of wearing face masks throughout the pandemic. But I think they can see in my eyes when I am smiling with them.”

Courteney said her family including dad, Mark Jones, brothers Ceiran Jones and Wayne Lewis, and sisters, Kelly and Leanne Lewis were all proud about the award which they also saw as a tribute to her mum.

A bench, engraved ‘Julie’s Bench’ sits in the grounds of Pendine Park in Summerhill, Wrexham, where Julie is fondly remembered by all the staff.

As well as the Smile awards, Pendine Park has also just announced the winners of its yearly Semmelweis awards, named in memory of the celebrated physician Ignaz Semmelweis. He is credited with having discovered the importance of regular hand washing to prevent the spread of germs.

A total of 17 staff were recognised in different categories, with three joint overall winners. They are Arlene Elano, deputy manager of Bodlondeb care home, Wrexham; Julie Wood, Pendine Park Facilities Manager, also in charge of health and safety; and Sandra Evans, manager of Pendine’s award-winning Bryn Seiont Newydd residential home in Caernarfon.

The Semmelweis awards recognise excellence in maintaining high standards of hand washing and cleanliness.

Arlene lives in Wrexham with her husband Armingo who also works at Pendine Park, and their three children.

She said: “Cleanliness is always a top priority in any care setting but never more so than over the last year when everyone has worked so hard to maintain rigorous standards of hygiene.”

She said she was surprised to be among the winners of the award which includes a commemorative certificate and gift vouchers, adding: “Over the years I have nominated so many well deserved candidates and only ever dreamed that I could be considered for an award. So I feel very proud that others see in me the values that this organisation instil and which form the very basis of our brand.

“Together as a team we deliver quality of care, we follow our training and embrace every new day as an opportunity to better the provision of care for our residents.”

Julie Wood who joined Pendine Park just as the first pandemic national lockdown came into force, said she was also honoured to have had her work recognised.

She said: “The last 18 months have been extremely hard on everyone. It has been a steep learning curve for so many industries including the care sector. Throughout it we’ve imposed highly elevated levels of protection across our organisation.

“I’m very proud to have received the Semmelweis award but, like Arlene, I see it as a tribute to the whole team who have gone all out to help in the battle to keep our residents safe and our staff protected.”