Staff said a fond farewell to Wilhelmina House’s Manager, Deborah Pearson after nearly two decades of working in the Park Hill care home on Friday 29th June.

All gathered for an afternoon of entertainment, food and fizz to give Deborah a fantastic send-off and to wish her well  for the future.
In a touching ‘This is your life’ tribute, staff learned of Deborah’s amazing career journey at Wilhelmina House from assistant cook to Home Manager, as well as her true love and passion for her job.
This is her story:

Deborah first began working at Wilhelmina House 26 years ago in 1997 as a domestic. She worked part time when all her children had started school. She quickly progressed to assistant cook before landing a role as a care assistant. This is when she found her vocation in life – she loved it.

She started working full-time and was promoted to a senior care assistant. Whilst she was acting up the home was inspected by the Croydon Inspection Unit (now CQC) and one of the inspectors immediately noticed Deborah’s special talent in caring for people. The inspector advised her to seek out a job in social services and so in 2000 she left Wilhelmina House having achieved a NVQ level 3 diploma.

She then joined Croydon’s social care team in the day care department as day care officer which entailed driving the mini-buses.

She loved it, particularly entertaining the clients and going out and about with them. She was able to add another qualification to her portfolio by achieving an Assessor’s Award to access NVQs up to level 3. After a couple of years, she moved into special sheltered housing in South Norwood as the Deputy Manager running a team of home care and looking after vulnerable people. Still committed to developing professionally due to her love of learning, she achieved her level 4 Diploma in Health and Social Care along with the Registered Managers Award.

It must have been fate that pulled Deborah and Wilhelmina House together again as one day she was reading the Croydon Advertiser and spotted a job advert for the Head of Home at Wilhelmina House. She recalled a memory of the previous manager of the home who used to run her fingers along the tops of the pictures and she thought: “If that’s all there is to being a manager I could do this job with my eyes shut!”

She applied, got the job and started on 4 May 2004 when Wilhelmina House was part of the Dutch Home for the Elderly before being taken over by the Whitgift Foundation on 1st April 2007. Deborah would like to thank Mr Van Horne, who was the Head of the Committee for the Dutch Home for giving her the opportunity to come back and she would also like to thank the Foundation for letting her run Wilhelmina House which has given her such a wonderful and inspiring career.

So, what’s it like to work at Wilhelmina House?

Deborah says that each day has its own challenges but it has never been has like coming to work. She has never ever woken up and thought “I’ve got to go to work.” She says that working at Wilhelmina has been her life.

She feels this is due to Wilhelmina House’s unique atmosphere that has never changed in all the years she has worked there. Right from 1997 to date, the atmosphere, the ethos and the culture has never changed. She has worked hard to retain this unique atmosphere and keep it as individual as it is. She has witnessed so many people coming through the home, including visitors and strangers and people who have never been before and they always say: “Oh my gosh –  it’s such a lovely atmosphere – warm and welcoming as soon as you walk through the door. No matter what you are feeling inside or what your day is going to be like – you switch and you just rise above everything and you just be as happy, welcoming and as caring as you can.”

Deborah cites many fond and funny memories:

She recalls during the build for the new extension there were lots of skips outside which drove her mad as they were always messy and unsightly. With her OCD raging she would take matters into her own hands, climb into the skip using her long legs, and set about tidying up the skip. This earned her the nickname of ‘Skippy’ by her team. During the build, the team all worked out of one room and she remembers how good the staff morale and solidarity was.

She also recalls fond memories with herself and Trudi – jet washing the back garden, climbing on the table and chairs to hang Xmas lights, coming in at 3am to put the trees up for the residents to wake up to in the morning for Xmas and doing the catering for the garden parties.

She says that it was such a strong team: “We weren’t just colleagues, we were friends and we have shared in many moments of laughter.”

Covid was also a really positive experience for Deborah due to her strong team. To save her staff from going on public transport, she organized with school staff who were on furlough to use the mini-buses to go and pick up her staff who were starting at 5am and bring them to work. They would then take the late shift home at 9pm at night – all for free. As the shops were out of many items such as toilet rolls, she ensured the caterers would deliver items for her staff so they did not need to go shopping. She says this was the main reason that Covid never entered the home and by her thinking outside the box.

Deborah says there have been many, many lovely residents. She says you can’t get too emotionally involved but some just have that thing where they interfere with your heart and emotions.

When asked about advice to pass on to staff she said: “Be good to each other. Respect each other and laugh each day.”

Her last words: “I will miss it all and it will take me a while to get over it. It’s going to be like a part of me will be missing as it’s been my routine for 19 years where I have been on call 24 hours a day.”