Taree Old Bar Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) continues to make leaps and bounds in and out of the water in 2020.
With news the clubhouse near Old Bar Beach will undergo major renovations in the near future, club executives has opened up about its importance to the community, the growth of nippers and bronze squad numbers and the ongoing dedication of volunteers.
During the height of the bushfire crisis last summer, the clubhouse became an unofficial evacuation centre of sorts for residents in need.
It was a safe haven for families, their pets and belongings.
"We had horses, dogs and goats here during the bushfires," lifesaving director Dean Donovan recalled.
"People were scared so they felt safe coming here."
Club president Jane Lynch said those who took shelter left the premises in good condition.
The unfortunate situation also proved the surf club is at the heart of the community.
"I think sometimes this is seen as just a building but when the bushfires came the community said 'actually this is our building'," Jane said.
In the space of one summer, nipper numbers almost tripled from 36 to just shy of 100 while the bronze squad doubled on previous years.
"These are really invested members too, a lot of the new bronze squad were parents of nippers," Jane said.
"There is something for everyone which is something we're really excited about this year."
The number of patrols increased by 20 per cent.
"So far this year we did 1600 voluntary hours on the beach in what was a shortened season," Dean revealed.
"Our members and patrollers are growing stronger and we're getting a lot of people that have come along and joined us on the beach."
The nippers program for this coming summer is starting to take shape. The first meeting was held two weeks ago.
Our members and patrollers are growing stronger and we're getting a lot of people that have come along and joined us on the beach.Dean Donovan, Taree Old Bar SLSC lifesaving director
"Nippers is a great kids sport but at the end of the day what we're trying to do is train them to be lifesavers in the long run," Dean added.
"It's about making sure the kids and the people in this area can save themselves if they get into trouble because it's usually the problem is someone gets into trouble and that someone that goes to save them don't have the skills to do it."
Dean said the boost to the bronze squad was needed.
"At the end of the day we're only a small club and we were doing big hours and burning out our members who would come and try and help out and then say they couldn't do it," Dean said.
"We're running five patrols which gives everyone a month off.
"There's a lot of dedicated people who have come down to help nearly every weekend, these are members who just love being on the beach."
The growth in membership numbers means the workload around the surf club is shared.
"We had members come in, executive included, to do everything," Jane said.
"Now we've got really cool groups who have taken an interest and run with it, like cleaning or the nippers program."
"People would come off the beach after a long day then work the bar for a few hours," club finance director Michael Cameron added.
Meanwhile, the club has locked in the executive for 2020-21. It was the first time in several years the entire executive was elected at the annual general meeting.
Jane, Michael, Dean and administration director Kurt Schirmer retained their positions while the new faces are Jay Steel (vice president), Kristy Franc (members services director), Darren Moses (education director) and Kasey Brown (surf sports director).
Also at the meeting, the annual club awards were announced.
Retiring vice president and licensee Brian Kelleher was named the Doug Ferguson Memorial club person of the year.
Amber Kelleher was named Jeff Vandenburgh Memorial junior club person of the year while Tom Riley picked up the patrol member of the year gong.
Lindsay Bidner and Kristy Franc were named male and female club member of the year respectively.
Mal White, Ken Mulligan and Dianne Mulligan were named joint Grant Armstrong Memorial volunteer of the year.
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