Turning 80 won’t stop receptionist Marie Sims volunteering with the St Barnabas Counselling Centre in Norwich

She may be about to turn 80 but Marie Sims has no intention of stepping down from her role as a volunteer receptionist any time soon.

While most people look forward to taking a well-earned rest when they retire, Mrs Sims – whose 80th birthday is next Thursday – has spent the last 18 years volunteering at the St Barnabas Counselling Centre in Derby Street, Norwich.

She is a hugely popular member of the team and her colleagues describe her as a real inspiration.

Mrs Sims, of De Hague Road, Norwich, and who works at the centre every Thursday, said: 'I love coming to the centre. It is because it is such a wonderful place and the people here are the best friends you could possibly wish to have.

'They are like family to me. I could work here every day and feel happy.

'On the day that I work most of the clients that come in also know me by my first name and we always chat a little bit.

'I would like to keep doing my job as long as I am able to cope with everything the job entails. I will stay as long as they will have me here!'

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Cathy Austin, the centre's director, said: 'Marie is an inspiration to us all. She has been here as a volunteer receptionist for 18 years and she looks after us all. She is really helpful and on the ball, and she loves working with people. Part of being a receptionist is you have to be warm and make people feel welcome, and Marie is very good at making people feel comfortable – and at making cups of tea.

'It is people like Marie that make the centre what it is.'

Mrs Sims, who is originally from Scotland, trained as a nurse in the 1950s and while working as a nurse in Cheshire she met her late husband Ted Sims who she married in 1958.

The couple lived in India for six years where Mr Sims worked as an engineer and Mrs Sims helped at a mother and baby clinic, trained people in first aid, and did charity work. When they returned to England Mrs Sims became the chairman of the Guisborough branch of the NSPCC.

They moved to Norwich in 1972, and Mr Sims sadly died in 1973.

Mrs Sims worked as a nurse and welfare assistant at a school in Costessey, and then as a nurse at St Helen's House in Bishopgate, before working as a nurse at Saint Felix School in Southwold for 10 years.

She got involved with the St Barnabas Counselling Centre about a year after she retired, and Mrs Sims' friends at the centre are throwing her an 80th birthday party on Thursday.

Do you know a volunteer who has made a great achievement? Call reporter Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email emma.knights@archant.co.uk

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