Last year Michelle Collins received a devastating cancer diagnosis and she was truly missed by everyone while fighting a brave battle against the disease.
However, thanks to her champion spirit and the support of her RNLI crew mates, colleagues at Skegness Police Station and partner, local firefighter John Barke, she is now in remission and back in her roles.
As a Trainee Head Launcher and Launch Vehicle Driver for Skegness RNLI lifeboat station, joining the team in 2016, Michelle's ability to multitask and remain calm under pressure has proven invaluable in both roles.
“It all started when I became a PCSO,” Michelle said. “I got to know the volunteer crew at Skegness lifeboat and learned about their vital work. They showed me how they contribute to our community, which is the same community I serve as a PCSO.”
Trusting those around her, she effortlessly balances her responsibilities as a PCSO while embodying the skills required to safely manoeuvre the station's highly complex Shannon Launch and Recovery System (SLRS).
“The Head Launchers and Drivers make it look easy as if they're handling a dinky toy,” Michelle said. “But there's so much more to it. One minute, I'll think I'm on track, with the boat going exactly where I want it to go. Then, it shifts, throwing me off course. But with perseverance and guidance, I always find my way back.”
Being a part of the lifeboat crew has presented Michelle with new challenges and opportunities for personal growth. Working together as a cohesive team, the volunteer crew constantly strive to keep their community safe and foster a close bond among themselves.
“I honestly wish I had joined sooner,” said Michelle. “There's so much more to the lifeboat than just the boats, there are multiple roles to fulfil. I'm 4ft 11'' but my height doesn't mean I can't be a part of something special. I get to launch the boat and help the crew reach those in need.”
One of the parts Michelle finds toughest is knowing when her fellow volunteer crew are responding to their pagers while she is on PCSO duty. However, even during those moments, she remains dedicated to looking after her community in any way she can.
Michelle is one of three female operational crew at the station along with Lyz Thein and Ellie Barnfield.
“I am used to working in a very male-oriented environment, but I understand it can be quite daunting for others.” she said.
“We are a tight-knit crew and when the pager goes, it doesn’t matter who you are, we are all totally focused on saving lives at sea.
"Once you take that first step and experience it yourself, you become part of something extraordinary and rewarding.”
Michelle emphasises the importance of recognising the efforts of the shore crew – the hidden heroes - who often work behind the scenes to save lives at sea.
She said: “While the boat crew often gets the spotlight, we mustn't forget that without the shore crew, the boat wouldn't even launch/
“I love being part of the shore crew; we always laugh and look after each other. We encourage and motivate one another.”