BITTERSWEET: Colleagues reflect on Heather’s contributions
Nurturing, dedicated and passionate are just some of the words colleagues used to describe Heather Cummings ahead of her retirement.
The 66-year-old started volunteering with Youth Insearch as a support adult and leader in 2005 before she was employed in 2016.
Previously working as the Queensland co-ordinator, the organisation's growth saw Heather later step into the role of Wide Bay Burnett's regional co-ordinator and she has been assisting the region's youth ever since.
But now the time has come for Heather to retire - a bittersweet decision for everyone involved.
Program operations manager Jennie Linton first met Heather when the pair were youth support co-ordinators and would bring young people into the End Youth Suicide program.
"Heather volunteered for a long time before she started working - about 11 years," Jennie said.
"She was an integral part of Youth Insearch growing across Queensland and that's because she is very good with relationships, meeting with agencies and working with young people."
Describing Heather as a hard and passionate worker, Jennie said her colleague wanted to reach and help as many young people as possible through Youth Insearch.
"I know that there are a lot of people alive today because of the work that Heather has done … she has a real passion for young people and we're all really going to miss her," she said.
"One of the biggest things that stands out about Heather is her determination to do a good job and make sure everything is in place so that we were always doing our best.
"Back in the day we used paper so when we introduced technology Heather really struggled but she really persisted and wouldn't let it get to her - she became the standout person with technology in the end and people ended up coming to her for help."
Praised for her dedication and hard work nothing could stop Heather from coming to work and helping others - including a leg reconstruction.
Starting out as youth participants in the program Joe Horvat and Alorah Rixon later both became leaders - a path they followed after looking up to Heather for so many years.
"I've known Heather since she started at Youth Insearch and I was one of the first participants she took in when she came back to the program after having a bit of a break," Joe said.
"Heather and I spent a lot of time together travelling around the Wide Bay region from Gympie to Bundaberg and would generally spend about three days away at a time."
Looking back fondly on many memories shared together over the years Joe said Heather was "the grandma" he never had.
"I remember on a trip Heather went to a video store but had no idea how to rent one out … it's because she's a country woman at heart - we both found it pretty funny," Joe said.
"She's such a caring person and even if she has something going on she's always there to talk to and help me overcome problems professionally and personally."
While Alorah, who has known Heather for almost 10 years, recalls the support she received from Heather throughout her high school years.
"When I first joined Youth Insearch I went in as a participant - I was young and things were pretty rough - Heather was one of the first people to be loving and nurturing … like a mum to be honest," Alorah said.
"I didn't have much of that at home so she stood in and became a real role model for me and I have a lot of cherished memories of Heather during that time.
"She really is amazing and I just want to thank Heather for everything she's done for us and for dedicating her life and time for so many years … seeing her go is going to be so tough."
Krystal Axel participated in the End Youth Suicide program in 2010 after her psychologist recommended it.
A high school student at the time, Krystal has held onto her paperwork from the workshop over the years and still remembers how much Heather helped her through a difficult time in her life.
"It genuinely changed my mental state - everyone wrote on cards for one another and it was truly beautiful," Krystal said.
"I spoke to so many lovely ladies and one in particular (Heather) who had been working with kids for years and years.
"Heather was pivotal in keeping me safe … she was the best - I'm sure she hears it all the time but truly meeting her was a life changing experience."
While Heather will be volunteering for Youth Insearch following her retirement her time as an employee will come to an end on March 31.
This weekend will also be the last Bundaberg workshop she works a staff member.
Colleagues will join Heather for an afternoon tea to celebrate her accomplishments, tenure and all she has done to assist young people in need.
As a retiree Heather's colleagues said they think she will be happily spending time with family.
Replacing Heather as the Wide Bay Burnett regional co-ordinator is Donna Ryan who has worked for Youth Insearch since 2019 and previously volunteered for the organisation too.
Donna can be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org