There was a big turnout at the Dunanney Centre in Rathcoole on Friday afternoon as well wishers gathered to say a fond farewell to Pat Hutchinson.
The Glengormley woman, District Manager of Citizens Advice Newtownabbey (formerly Newtownabbey CAB) for over three decades, said an emotional goodbye to friends and colleagues at a special retirement lunch held in her honour.
Among those who attended the event were current and former Citizens Advice staff members, clients, community representatives, politicians and local church leaders.
Mrs Hutchinson was presented with gifts and special mementos to mark her 32 years of dedicated service with Newtownabbey Citizens Advice Bureau.
A former civil servant, she started with CAB in 1984 as a volunteer, and after a few months took on the role of District Manager. She has helped thousands of clients over the years with a wide variety of problems, and was awarded an MBE in 1999 for services to the Citizens Advice Bureau. Under her leadership, the Rathcoole-based office scored top marks in a number of independent audits and was named the best bureau in the UK.
Reflecting on her career with Citizens Advice, Mrs Hutchinson described her time with the organisation as “a huge and significant part of my life.”
“I am really proud of the success that we have here, but it’s not just down to me, I have an amazing team,” she said. “They are totally committed to the people who come through our door. We go the extra mile and I think that is really important. Every single one of my team are amazing and I am so going to miss them.”
Mrs Hutchinson, who also praised the Citizens Advice trustees and the local council for their support over the years, continued: “I have worked with so many great people over such a long period of time and the friendships I have forged over the years are extraordinary and they have impacted on my life in so many ways.”
Reflecting on her decision to retire, she added: “This decision that I have made, I have prayed about it and I really know that this is the right thing to do. I am going to do some training for our regional office and I’m going to do other things, maybe with Divine Healing Ministries and my own church in Ballyclare.
“This is another exciting part of the journey that I am on, and I know that when I leave that the passion that we have for people and for looking after people, that will never be lost because it is instilled in every one of them. They are such lovely, good people.
“When people come to our door, whether they are an alcoholic, whether they are people with addictions, whether they are people who just can’t manage their money, for whatever reason, we always remember that we have never walked in their shoes so we don’t judge people, what we do is help them and we go that extra mile and do our best to help them. That will never finish, because that’s what we’re about here.
“The staff here are extraordinary. They are lovely, they are precious and I know that they will continue to go from strength to strength.”
Mrs Hutchinson, who struggled to hold back tears as she said goodbye, received a standing ovation from the dozens of people who’d gathered to wish her a long and happy retirement.
• See full coverage in this week’s Times (on sale now)
• Read related story - Citizens Advice manager retires: Tributes paid to ‘a brilliant leader’