Nothing is more rewarding than saving someone’s life, according this week’s Local Hero winner.
Rita Marley is a 67-year-old St John Ambulance volunteer who has dedicated an admirable 38 years to first aid.
She’s clocked up more than 18,000 hours service to making sure the good people of Sussex are kept in good health and currently commits about 1,000 hours a year to the cause.
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The Advanced First Aider has been the manager of St John Ambulance Portslade and Shoreham since 2008, but her remarkable story can be traced back to the 1970s.
Rita, of Foredown Drive in Portslade, said: “I was in my twenties and I had two children. I thought it would be a good idea to learn first aid in case they ever needed help and I’ve not looked back since.
“I love what I do and if I’m honest, it keeps my occupied.
“I’m honoured to receive this Local Hero award and am looking forward to many more years of volunteering.”
If her previous years of service are anything to go by, Sussex is a safer place with Rita on the beat.
Three years ago she saved the life of a man taking part in the Hove Promenade Fun Run after he collapsed in front of spectators.
Having recognised he was in cardiac arrest, she revived him using chest compressions and a defibrillator.
“He made a full recovery and I was really humbled when his family sought me out the following year to thank me and tell me they’d raised £2,500 for St John Ambulance”, said Rita.
“Nothing can be more rewarding than knowing you’ve saved someone’s life. It stays with you forever and makes all that we do worthwhile.”
In recognition of her outstanding service, Rita was recently invested as a Serving Sister in a prestigious ceremony at the Order of St John’s Priory Church in London.
The Order of St John is a Royal Order of Chivalry and the Queen, its Sovereign Head, approves each recipient.
St John Ambulance said volunteers like Rita were “fundamental in helping the charity to fulfil its charitable aims”.
Rodney Green, chairman of St John, said: “Rita has been invited to join the Order of St John in recognition of the contribution she has made to her community. She has shown true commitment to helping St John Ambulance’s life saving work.”
But Rita isn’t planning on hanging up the high-vis jacket just yet.
With another year of horse race meetings, marathons, sporting and community events to come, there’s still work to be done.
She said: “I’m not thinking about packing it in just yet. I enjoy it too much.”