A GOLD-HEARTED school worker who goes out of her way to help struggling Middlesbrough families improve their lives despite her own struggles has been recognised with a Teesside Hero award.
Mother-of-two Angela Barry started working at Caldicotes Primary Academy as a cleaner 18 years ago.
The 51-year-old is now director of safeguarding and wellbeing at the Thorntree school and goes the extra mile on a daily basis to help pupils and their families to enjoy a better quality of life.
Constantly battling to ensure those without food are fed, caring Angela is responsible for the school’s impoverishment fund which allows cash-strapped families to access help in paying their bills.
Her relentless commitment has also seen her put together Christmas hampers and run holiday clubs, provide food bank vouchers and complete weekly shops so children don’t go hungry.
And she has put additional hours in to run parenting classes and help parents with literacy and numeracy problems, and provide advice on how to complete CVs.
Angela’s hard work has now been recognised by charitable movement Teesside Philanthropic Foundation, with Lisa Preston of patrons Hunters Estate Agents paying her a surprise visit during a school day to present her with the award.
“I was speechless for once when I realised what was going on,” she said. “It’s very nice to be appreciated – I just want people to succeed and have a bit of a better life, and I do my best to try and help.”
Angela takes great pride in her job and said she can relate to many of the problems which less fortunate families in her school’s catchment area are experiencing.
“I know what some families have to deal with and the pressures they are under and the struggles that they have,” said Angela.
“I’ve been through a lot of the same situations myself.
“I’m a single parent. My mam died when I was nine, I’ve suffered with depression and been a victim of domestic violence, and I’ve had cancer.
“But I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to get support off relatives, whereas some of our pupils’ families don’t have that.
“I like to help out where I can and my job is to make sure that our children are happy.
“And if they’re not, speak to the family and find out why and try and give them a helping hand.”
Angela also paid special tribute to Caldicotes principal Helen Steele after receiving her award.
“Without her backing I would not be able to support our families as I do,” she added.
Caldicotes vice-principal Ben Jones nominated Angela for the award and said she fully deserves her recognition.
He said: “More than anyone I have met in my 11 years’ teaching, Angela truly cares for each child she meets, beyond their education and into the home.
“Time and time again she is the advocate for families who feel they don’t have anyone to support them in meeting their needs.
“She is in school every day leading from the front, demonstrating that every child has a chance.
“Angela never gives up on anyone. She is a shoulder to cry on, a confidant and a guide through difficult and challenging circumstances.”
Angela received a meal-for-two prize at Al Forno in Middlesbrough along with her trophy, while she also received £1,000 for a worthy cause of her choice – choosing to split the cash between Thorntree Community Hub and Feast of Fun, a lunch club which started off in Middlesbrough churches and is aiming to roll out into local schools.