Volunteers in the Great Lakes claim 2018 Volunteer of the Year awards for Mid North Coast

Volunteers across the Mid North Coast have been recognised for their outstanding contribution to their communities at a ceremony in Port Macquarie on September 3.

In a huge win for the Great Lakes region, Julie Brady won the Senior Volunteer of the Year as well as the Overall Regional winner. She said she was delighted.

“I feels great to be able to win the award but I accept this award on behalf of the hundreds of volunteers I have worked with over the years,” Ms Brady said.

“It is not just me who deserves the awards or the accolades, it is every volunteer who dedicates themselves to helping in the community.”

Describing herself as a “serial volunteer” since her retirement in 2004, Ms Brady is a driving force behind the Great Lakes Women’s Shelter and says she very much enjoys helping others.

“I volunteer with the Forster Neighbourhood Centre and was president for nine years, as well as currently being president of the Great Lakes Women’s Shelter Board. Anything that brings publicity to these excellent causes is just dandy with me,” she said.

“Over the past 12 months, the shelter has helped more than 90 women and children with crisis accommodation and other support services, before transitioning to private accommodation.

“After a lot of hard work and grants we are very close to getting a purpose-built designated shelter which is phenomenal.

“And it is with thanks to the community who are getting behind these causes because without the support of the community, none of what we are doing would have been possible.”

She also volunteers at a number of other community-based organisations including the Foster Neighbourhood Centre, the Rural Fire Service and is a volunteer tutor and after school carer.

Tracey Parker was the Adult Volunteer of the Year for her work with the Australian Kookaburra Kids Foundation.

“To be honest I was shocked to be called as the adult winner. To just be nominated was incredible, but to be the winner is something else,” Ms Parker said.

“The Australian Kookaburra Kids Foundation is a wonderful organisation that hosts camps for children in difficult situations.

“On our camps we get the kids out of the comfort zone doing fun things like camping and kayaking all surrounded by positive reinforcement which is something they may not be getting elsewhere.

“We also hold a Chat Room every week where kids can come and we talk about mental health in a safe space for them.”

The former police officer also said that the programs are currently expanding.

“We are taking our programs to Queensland and the Norther Territory and hopefully expand up towards Port Macquarie as well,” she said.

The Centre for Volunteering, CEO, Gemma Rygate said volunteers from across the region had made an enormous contribution to the local community.

“Volunteers from across the area give their time helping in schools, hospitals, for sporting clubs, the environment, and with so many community-based organisations,” Ms Rygate said.

“They all give so much without asking for anything in return.

“It was so pleasing to recognise their outstanding efforts and also celebrate the special contribution of the volunteers chosen to represent the region in November at the state final of the NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards.”

On the day, the Volunteer Team of the Year award was awarded to the Cancer Council Great Lakes Relay for Life Committee after the team braved floods and storms to get their highly successful Relay for Life event off the ground this year. The event attracted 500 visitors who all helped celebrate local cancer survivors, patients and their carers and raise money for ongoing cancer research, education and information.

The team has helped raise almost $500,000 since its inception.

Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker said he was proud to be in the company of such great people.

“It is a testament to all their hard work and dedication that so many volunteers are being recognised from across the Mid North Coast today,” Mr Hartsuyker said.

“Volunteers in all our communities give so selflessly to their community and though they never seek recognition or fame, I think their work is worthy of being recognised in front of others.”

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