A DEDICATED housekeeping manager has no plans to retire as she celebrates her 30th anniversary with a leading care organisation – but it very nearly didn’t last.
Sheila George has been with Pendine Park since joining in 1991 in a relief domestic role, quickly becoming a permanent and respected member of staff – although she toyed with the idea of quitting just two weeks into the job.
She has enjoyed a long stint as Pendine Park’s housekeeping manager, being tasked with overseeing the cleanliness operation at each site in Wrexham and Caernarfon.
Affectionately known as the ‘Sergeant Major’ in honour of her military-like precision, Sheila helps ensure her loyal team of staff keep all the homes and rooms spick and span.
Her landmark anniversary with Pendine Park coincides with her having celebrated her 65th birthday during April, but she has no intention of calling time on her career.
“I am certainly not planning to retire yet,” she said. “I’m pleased to say I am in good health and as long as that stays the case then I want to carry on here.
“It seems they are happy for me to keep working here, so I will hopefully still be with Pendine Park for a few more years yet.
“I really enjoy working for Pendine Park and I have been fortunate to work with such a good team of staff.”
Sheila has many happy memories of her 30 years working for Pendine Park, having overcome a challenging start.
She arrived at Pendine Park’s Summerhill Road complex in July 1991 and found herself thrown in at the deep end.
“After two weeks I really thought that I wasn’t sure about this,” said Sheila, who grew up in Rhostyllen and now lives in Gwersyllt.
“I was going home tired every day. I’d joined as a relief domestic, but when I arrived on my first day, I was told two housekeepers had left and it was a tough start.
“Although I had done cleaning work before, this was the first time I had worked in care homes and it took a bit of getting used to.
“I would never have thought back then that I would still be working for Pendine Park 30 years later.
“But I’m glad I have. Working here has given me a lot of pleasure and I can’t now imagine having done anything else.”
Thirty years ago the only home for Sheila to work at on Summerhill Road was Cae Bryn, but in the ensuing years a series of other homes were opened on the site and elsewhere.
Sheila has been entrusted with ensuring the housekeeping operation runs smoothly at all the homes, working with the head housekeepers to achieve immaculate standards of cleanliness from the team of about 100 staff.
The grandmother’s efforts have been rewarded with a string of positive comments from management, residents and visitors alike, as well as an ISO Quality report that praised the high standards of housekeeping.
“It is always busy but it is good to be busy,” said Sheila, who is based on the Summerhill Road site. “The days always go quickly and no two days are ever the same.
“Audits are carried out to ensure high standards are being met in the homes.
“We work hard, but we have also had a lot of laughs with the staff and the residents.”
One of the biggest challenges Sheila has faced was the opening of Pendine Park’s award-winning Bryn Seiont Newydd care home in Caernarfon in 2015.
Sheila regularly made the 140-mile round trip from Wrexham to Caernarfon to help ensure the housekeeping team would be ready for the opening of the new facility.
“I was travelling there and back every day. It was hard work,” she recalled.
“I spent a lot of time training the staff. We had to make sure our procedures were all in place, but it worked out well in the end.
“Pendine Park has expanded a lot since I first joined.
“Whenever a new home has opened, we have made sure staff are trained the same way as the others and the same high standards are maintained.”
Sheila may have devoted almost half of her life to working in care homes, but this was not her plan as a young woman.
She served with the Royal Corps of Signals, spending time in Germany as a switchboard operator.
Her military career was short but it led to her meeting her husband, Tom, with whom she has grown-up children, Kelly and Dean, and grandchildren Catrin, 17, and Grace, six.
After performing cleaning work in private homes, Sheila applied for a role with Pendine Park in 1991 having returned to live in the Wrexham area.
It was to mark the start of a long and happy working relationship with Pendine Park directors Mario Kreft MBE and his wife, Gill.
While with Pendine Park she has lovingly become known as the ‘Sergeant Major’, in recognition of how Sheila successfully leads her team as well as her military background.
“I don’t mind being called that because I’m like that,” laughed Sheila.
“It is important that we are meeting high standards and residents are being given the best possible service they can get,
“Mario and Gill have always been fair with me and I enjoy working with them. Whenever I have asked for something, they have been supportive.”
Reflecting on how things have changed during the past 30 years, Sheila said: “I have seen a lot of staff come and go, but I’ve also seen a lot who have come back and many who have been here a long time.
“There have been a lot of changes within nursing homes during the past 30 years. You have to be prepared for change if you work here because the regulations change.
After three decades in the role, Sheila has found the Covid-19 pandemic to represent a particularly unexpected challenge.
“The last year has been the hardest in all my time here,” she said. “It has been difficult in terms of going into homes due to Covid.
“It has been challenging for the residents, staff and visitors, who have wanted to come and see residents but haven’t been able to.
“I have great admiration for all the staff who have continued to work throughout the pandemic.”
Gill Hughes, responsible individual and director at Pendine Park, has hailed Sheila’s contribution to the organisation for the past 30 years.
She said: “Throughout my time at Pendine Park I have seen the quality of work performed by Sheila and her team.
“She has always managed a very robust and efficient department.
“Sheila has been hugely instrumental in ensuring high standards have always been maintained across our homes.
“She is a very popular member of staff and I congratulate her on having been with Pendine Park for 30 years.”