Happy Mother's Day, Gemma and Kymme's Story
A passion for people is in the genes of Activity Coordinators - as proved by our mother and daughter team in Coventry, Kymme O’Toole and Gemma Morrison.
After a spell of volunteering at Poppy Court, Coventry, Kymme was appointed as the first paid Activity Coordinator appointed at the scheme almost 14 years ago.
“I started helping out regularly with activities after mum and dad moved into Poppy in 2005. They loved it and mum would do Reiki and hand massages for the other residents, she loved doing things for other people. I would help out with arranging activities and with bingo.”
While working as Activity Coordinator Kymme would sometimes bring along a young Gemma to meet the residents. The customers at Poppy Court have watched her and her daughter grow and so feel like family to the pair.
I just can’t stop myself. It’s so lovely doing what you love to do and encouraging customers to participate in whatever way they can.- Kymme O'Toole
From a young age, Gemma visited Poppy Court to help with arts and crafts, fetes and fairs at the scheme whilst she was in sixth form and on holidays from her studies at university.
Gemma reminisced “I was always the child who won the Easter bonnet competition, thanks to Mum’s artistic flair." Gemma says this has been passed onto her and both enjoy getting crafty in the workplace. Gemma’s earliest memory at the scheme was joining Kymme on a sponsored walk in aid of charity.
“I was only nine and was so proud of mum doing this brilliant thing for charity,” says Gemma, who is now an Activity Coordinator herself at Bevan Court, Cheylesmore. “She was doing a 24 hour walk and I did a couple of laps with her, I felt very grown-up!” Following this, both would take any opportunity to raise money for charity, including several events for Breast Cancer Care following the diagnosis of a close friend.
Currently on our Aspiring Managers course, Gemma has just clocked up her first year in post. Gemma started her career in recruitment “which I loved because it was person-centered and I enjoyed hearing people’s stories. I loved my job although I found the hours long and I had quite a heavy workload.
“After having my first daughter, I needed more flexibility and a better work-life balance. Mum was fantastically supportive when I changed career. It was a massive step for me and having someone in my corner meant such a lot.”
In true family tradition Gemma once again started helping out with activities at Poppy where residents closely followed her second pregnancy and got to know her children well. Gemma and her daughters continue to drop in regularly to chat to customers over a cuppa and the girls help out keeping up the supply of biscuits.
“It’s a nice safe environment for children to engage with older residents, some of whom don’t have any contact with young people,” adds Gemma. “Children are very direct though and no question is off limits, they can ask a customer why they are in a wheelchair, for instance. But customers like telling their story and they can learn so much from these experiences.”
When speaking of their relationship, it is clear to see Kymme and Gemma are great friends as well as Mother and Daughter. “We’re very close and are in constant contact, which can irritate our husbands,” says Kymme. “We’re forever being accused bringing work home, but you never switch off in this job. Whenever you’re out and about you’re always seeing things and thinking ‘we could do that!’ and we’re always swapping ideas.
“We speak on the phone every day and text in between and meet up for a coffee every week. We’ve plenty to talk about and share.”
When asked if they ever get competitive between schemes, Gemma admitted that the mother-daughter duo love a little friendly competition, and are currently running a residents quiz between Poppy Court and Bevan Court.