A 57 year old woman from Powys who stepped into the breach to cook for a group of young people with autism has been honoured with a national award.
Karen Saunders, who works at the Bronllys home in Brecon, was presented with a silver award at the Wales Care Awards at Cardiff City Hall.
The event was hosted by Wynne Evans, famed for his Go Compare advertisements on TV, who also has a daily show on Radio Wales.
Karen’s success was in the Quality in Housekeeping and Hospitality category, sponsored by Care Inn Ltd.
She had been nominated by Nickki Martin, facility manager at sites run by the Orbis Education and Care Group, which has several centres in South Wales. It also has a charity shop staffed by service users at Porth in the Rhondda.
Describing Karen,Nickki had declared : “She’s a legend.”
Housekeeper Karen had held several responsible posts in the social care sector in England, including as an assessor, when she relocated to Powys.
She started at Bronllys in March 2016, as a housekeeper. But when the home became without a chef she immediately stepped into the breach, and is now seeking professional qualifications, cooking daily for about nine young people, mainly boys between eight and 20, and for staff – 30 people altogether.
“Everything is home cooked,” she explained. “I encourage them to eat salads and plenty of fruit. I love my job. Two previous chefs went and I was asked to step in. From my previous jobs I’m used to menus and ordering food.”
Karen, who has a 27-year-old daughter and is married to a self-employed plumbing and heating engineer, lives at Llandrindod Wells and since moving to rural Powys, has a new hobby – birdwatching. “I’ve counted 32 species in my own back garden since coming to live here.”
She said when told about her nomination: “I’m overwhelmed – I just thought I was doing my job.”
Some of the young residents have particular problems and Karen reaches out to try and make their lives better.
Nickki said: “She’s absolutely fantastic, from the time she started she hit the ground running and fitted in so well.
“Karen is an amazing person, going above the beyond her duties, there are really no words to describe how good she is. She’s a legend, and so many people speak highly of her.
“She gets to know the children’s schedules, their likes and dislikes, and how to enable them to achieve little bits of independence, which is so important.
“Some of our children face so many challenges, but Karen is there to help them. Nothing is too much trouble.”
The main sponsors of the Cardiff event were Ontex Healthcare and Barchester Jobs.
Mario Kreft, chairman of event organisers Care Forum Wales, said the standard of entries was extremely high.
He added: “There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.
“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights in the months and years to come.
“This awards ceremony is our opportunity to pay tribute and to celebrate the talent and commitment that is improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people throughout Wales.
”We take our hats off to them.”