Posted by Devon Partnership Trust in News on 29th April, 2021
Johnathon Whittaker, a wood carver based in Plymouth, has spent the last year, along with the help of volunteers, carving special NHS plaques and donating them to hospitals, ambulance services, NHS charities and care homes across the country.
Last week, Johnathon, of Carved by Hand, visited three of our sites, Wonford House, Franklyn Hospital and Langdon, to present a wooden plaque and thank staff for their hard work and dedication.
Victoria Shorters, Belvedere Ward Manager said: "Staff at Franklyn Hospital are delighted to be recognised for their hard work throughout the COVID pandemic. We are so appreciative of this gesture and everyone has expressed their gratitude to Johnathon for this plaque and the many hours of work that it must have taken him to complete such a beautiful and unique piece of art. We will continue to enjoy this for many years to come. Thank you."
Johnathon said: "It really feels amazing and humbling to know that I was able to reach out and bring a smile to so many faces, hopefully for years to come! I think it just goes to show that anyone can help out, do their little bit. That this skill I have learnt over the years has been able to bring a little light and joy to a profession that is so important in our lives. Despite this pandemic, people are showing just how much they care, doesn’t have to be wood carving. Some people have donated their time, goods, money and services from all over the UK, really showing the best that people can be."
Joel Cutter, Secure Directorate Manager said: "Through COVID-19 there were so many staff that went above and beyond to keep patients safe and our services effective because that is their job and because they care. What was really poignant about meeting Johnathon and receiving this thoughtful gift was his focus on all staff being heroes and deserving recognition for the every day amazing things they do for others. We will put it where as many staff as possible can see it and trust it will serve as a positive reminder for everyone."
Each plaque takes around 8 hours to complete and Johnathon has now carved more than 362 plaques and has managed to donate to every large NHS facility in Devon and Cornwall and hundreds of other locations from the Scillies to Scotland.
The project started as a way of saying thank you to NHS staff for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaques show the NHS logo with the "S" represented by the Superman symbol.
Johnathon said: "The first NHS plaque was inspired by one of my carving students Pat Waters. Pat was in the high risk category and had to go into full seclusion at the beginning of lockdown. Pat was a huge fan of the NHS so I carved her a small plaque, swapping the S for the superman logo. I did a “how-to” video on this for her to have something to carve at home whilst she was quarantining. Then when my children and I were out on a Thursday evening, clapping for the frontline workers, my son suggested I carve something for the NHS. I know several staff at my local NHS hospital at Derriford, so I decided to carve a larger plaque for them. After I finished, I posted it on my Facebook page and it went viral."
Johnathon started to get requests from NHS staff across the country who wanted to have just a little something at work to make them smile.
He said: "My partner Christie had the mammoth task of keeping track of all the requests, deliveries, sponsors and other wood workers that wanted to get involved. Without her amazing managerial skills, this mission would not have been possible. My job was easier, I just had to carve them."
Local companies have got involved with the project, including wood donations from Bond Timber and equipment from Axminster Tools who also helped with sponsorship from tool manufacturers.
He said: "On the way we seem to have inspired dozens of wood workers around the country to also try their hand at carving and donate the plaques. For me personally, I love carving. Wood has such a tactile and beautiful feel and look to it, bringing it to life is one of the most satisfying jobs I have ever had. In the future, I want to keep carving and sharing with the community. I would like to work with local parks and councils to try and draw interest into our green spaces and conservation by making sculptures out of fallen trees."
"These last 12 months have also been particularly tragic for me, unfortunately 6 members of my family have all passed away to non-Covid related illness but because of Covid I have not been able to travel and spend their last moments with them. Especially losing my mother this past January has been particularly difficult. She was biggest supporter and loved what I have been doing. So as a tribute to her and all the NHS, I am going to keep on carving and donating these plaques in the attempt to reach every NHS facility in England."
Watch how Johnathon carves the plaques on YouTube here.
If anyone would like to help carve a sign, they can get in contact with Johnathon at firstname.lastname@example.org