Killabakh resident George Hoad's list of community involvement is one full A4 page and a half long.
His voluntary service to the community has spanned 35 years, 20 of those years spent in the gardening world locally, and 10 years nationally.
For this he has been appointed an AM (Member of the Order of Australia) in the 2021 Queen's Birthday Honours List for significant service to the residential horticulture industry, and to the community.
When George received the first letter in April, telling him he was going to receive the appointment, he did not at first believe it.
"Ironically I got it on April Fool's Day," George says. "I thought 'someone's pulling my leg'".
Over the last few months he has accepted that the appointment was, in fact, real, but he hasn't been able to tell anybody until today.
Each day it sinks in a bit more. It's like, you're so excited but you have learnt to just sit on it.George Hoad AM
"Each day it sinks in a bit more. It's like, you're so excited but you have learnt to just sit on it."
He doesn't know who nominated him, but suspects it is someone in the gardening world.
"I am deeply honoured, I know that's a cliché, but I really am, to have received such a prestigious award. And I'm pretty proud to receive it. I'm honoured to think that friends, colleagues, peers, whoever I've worked with over the years in the various fields, have felt me worth of not only nominating, but supporting such a nomination," he says.
George's most recent and, without a doubt, biggest voluntary involvement has been with the Garden Clubs of Australia (GCA). He has been a committee member since 2012, the events and functions manager from 2012-2015 and photo competition co-ordinator from 2012-2014, the zone co-ordinator, Lower North Coast and Hunter North Zones since 2013, senior vice president from 2013-2014, and finally president from 2015-2020.
His role as president of the GCA, a national not-for-profit run entirely by volunteers, has been a full time job for George, though unpaid.
"I spent five years zigzagging around the country, visiting as many clubs as possible, many hundreds of the 750 affiliates, 50,000 members," George says.
"Seeing on the ground what these wonderful gardeners do for their communities, their regions, that kept me going. I really enjoyed that.
"My aims were to get the organisation known internally but to get the Garden Clubs of Australia, as an organisation, known externally to the wider public and the media, so people knew who we were. And I'm really proud of the fact that we did have some traction there.
"When I left it was much more recognised in the general public, but also by the affiliates."
The thing he is most proud of over his 35 years of volunteering is instituting National Garden Week in 2017.
"National Gardening Week happens from my office. I am National Gardening Week!" George laughs.
"I'm very proud that I was able to launch that and put it under the auspices of GCA. Now that I've stepped back, I'm the ambassador of National Gardening Week and they're going to fund me going around.
"I'm hoping that it gets some traction. I've thought 10-15 years. It's been four years. The garden clubs have picked it up, so it gives them a focus each year. A lot of them celebrate it.
"As it goes on, I'm hoping to make it a little more educational at the same time, put a message with it. This year we've had a pretty tough year, so I've made it 'Let's just relax and enjoy the garden', I've kept it simple."
The COVID-19 pandemic clipped George's wings somewhat; he visited very few clubs during 2020. However, the down time meant he was able to spend precious time in his own backyard, Winchelsea, a six acre garden that has been featured on the Better Homes and Gardens television show.
In addition to his roles with the Garden Clubs of Australia, George has been the secretary of the Horticultural Media Association Australia since 2000.
In 2012, GCA awarded George the Ann Williams Clark Medallion for 'outstanding service by a member of an affiliated garden club'.
That affiliated garden club was Killabakh Garden Club, which George has been involved in since 2001, not long after he moved up from Sydney. He was the president of the club from 2004 to 2019, and is now a life member.
George is well known for his regular gardening column, Gardening with George, since 2010 in the Wingham Chronicle until its demise earlier this year, and is a regular ABC Radio gardening correspondent.
Winchelsea has been opened to the public many times over the years, primarily as a way of raising funds for George's favourite charity, Ronald McDonald House Charities. He has also hosted high teas and Mad Hatters Tea Parties over 10 years as fundraisers.
And it is fundraising for the charity that is second on the list of things George is most proud.
"Sometimes I raised more than $10,000 a day," George says.
George's involvement in the Killabakh community reaches far beyond gardening. He is heavily involved with the local hall, "the hall is the hub - everything comes out of that," he says. He has run numerous musical events and social gatherings at the hall to raise money for its upkeep, and the now legendary Killabakh Day in the Country has grown to be huge event in the Manning Valley calendar.
Beyond the community of Killabakh George is just as well known for his involvement in the local arts scene as he is for gardening.
He was the president of the Manning Winter Festival in 2013-2014 and a patron since 2018, has held various committee positions in Sinfonia Community Orchestra since 2006, a member of the Taree Arts Council since 2001, compere and vocalist for the Manning Valley Concert Band since 2016, and is the MC for the Taree and District Eisteddfod.
If there is a microphone anywhere in George's vicinity, he generally cannot stop himself from performing a song or two. His penchant for "show tunes" became well known throughout GCA, and when he visited clubs around Australia, a song was often demanded from him (if he hadn't already performed!).
And his passion for singing and acting is where his volunteering career began in the 1980s - in the New Theatre in Sydney, where he had a day job as the administrator, and the Actor's Equity Choir, who performed concerts and carols for St Vincent's Hospital and Hospice and nursing homes.
Apart from Killabakh, gardening and the arts - he still does more. George has been a member of the Manning Valley Historical Society since the 1990s and a member on various event committees. He also created the Anglican Care Auxiliary Manning in 2015, and was the inaugural president, a position he still holds.
"We raised $10-15,000 over the years and in 2017 we funded a sensory garden that I helped design at Storm Village," George says.
George's extraordinary volunteer work has not gone unrewarded by the community; 2015 was a big year for him. He was awarded Citizen of the Year by the then Great Taree City Council, Myall Lakes Citizen of the the Year by Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead, and Citizen of the Year in Wingham Rotary's Australia Day awards. Each of these awards were given for "outstanding service to the community, the arts, and gardening."
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