News TRIBUTES have been paid to an “extra-special” member of staff Tracey Donnelly, a support worker for NEAS, passed away in Sunderland General Hospital, aged 53 after testing positive for coronavirus. Our charity’s chief executive, John Phillipson, said: There is genuine shock and sadness across the society at this bitter loss. Tracey was dedicated, very popular, well respected, and will be greatly missed by us all. Tracey, who was born and raised in Edinburgh, joined the charity five years ago, working at a range of locations across the North-East. For the past two years, she has worked principally at The Court, Inverthorne and Moorpine residential homes in Sunderland. Michael Ross, registered care manager for NEAS, said: Tracey was such a caring, hard-working person who got on with everyone. She loved her family, and she loved the service-users in her care. This tragic news has ripped the heart out of the team and her colleagues are absolutely devastated. Tracey’s husband, George, said: She was so proud to be part of the North East Autism Society, working alongside a fantastic team, and caring so much for the service-users. All she ever wanted was the best for them. Tracey moved from Scotland to the North-East after meeting George and they married in October 2012. I loved her the first time I saw her, and I always will. She was so loving and kind – just an extra-special person in every way. The one bit of comfort I’ve been able to draw is the number of private messages I’ve had from her colleagues, along with a letter from the parent of one of the service-users. That shows what she meant to everyone. Tracey’s funeral takes place at Sunderland Crematorium next Thursday (November 26) at 3pm. The cortege will pause outside the three residential homes where she worked for a poignant tribute, featuring a display of works of art by service-users, as well as banners and balloons. Tracey leaves four sons – Steve, Christopher, Ben and Jack. She also had three step-children – Hayley, Jonathan, and Emma – and eight grandchildren. Our charity, which has 850 staff, has been hit especially hard by the pandemic. Tracey is the third much-loved member of staff to die from Covid-19 following Margie Blyth and Sue Gargett. However, there is no evidence that any of them were infected while carrying out their duties.