Tributes have been paid to the manager of Newtownabbey Citizens Advice Bureau for her 30 years of faithful service to the organisation.
Pat Hutchinson, a former civil servant, started with the CAB in 1984, working as a volunteer in the office above the War on Want shop at The Diamond.
She took on the role of district manager a year later and has been at the helm of the organisation ever since, overseeing the move to new premises at Newtownabbey Methodist Mission and more recently to the current offices in the Dunanney Centre.
During the recent CAB annual general meeting, Mrs Hutchinson reflected on her time working for what is now the busiest Bureau in Northern Ireland. She recalled some of the many clients the organisation has helped over the years, detailing how CAB advisors have helped people transform their lives.
Speaking to the Times, Mrs Hutchinson, said that she has “loved every minute” of her time with the Bureau.
“It’s been a privilege to be part of a service that really does make a difference to people’s lives. The most important thing is that we have changed people’s lives for the better,” she explained.
“The special thing is that you make a difference. You actually make a difference to people’s lives, and that’s the important thing about all of it.”
The Glengormley woman, who was awarded the MBE in 1999 for services to the community, went on to praise her “excellent team” of staff and volunteers for “going the extra mile” to help their clients.
Billy Snoddy, chairman of Newtownabbey CAB, presented a gift to Mrs Hutchinson on behalf of the management, staff and volunteers for her service and dedication over the past three decades.
Mr Snoddy, who has known Mrs Hutchinson for over 28 years through his association with the CAB, commented: “Pat has been at the forefront of Citizens Advice, not only in Newtownabbey, but in the whole of the Province.
“She is just one of those people who never stops going. She is such a tremendous worker and an icon as far as Newtownabbey CAB is concerned.”
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds also congratulated Mrs Hutchinson on her 30 years of service to the local community, describing it as “a remarkable achievement.”
“Pat is doing a tremendous job in this area and I think she deserves enormous credit and recognition for her work in leading this organisation,” he said.
Guest speaker at the AGM, Antrim and Newtownabbey Council chief executive Jacqui Dixon, praised Mrs Hutchinson for the “significant contribution” she has made to the ongoing success of the Bureau, which scored 100 per cent in its latest national audit.
Mayor Thomas Hogg presented Mrs Hutchinson with special mementos on behalf of the council to mark her 30 years of service.
“Pat is such an amazing person. She is such a dynamic figure who just oozes energy and enthusiasm and I think there is no better person to have at the helm,” he commented.
“I think that everyone appreciates the work that Pat has put in to the local community.”
During the AGM it was revealed that the local Bureau recovered £5.4m for clients in unclaimed benefits during 2012/13 and is currently helping clients deal with more than £12m of debt.