Volunteers from across St George and Sutherland Shire were recognised this week for their outstanding contribution to their local community at a special virtual ceremony for the 2020 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards.
About 100 special guests, volunteers and community leaders came together for the first-ever virtual event to recognise and celebrate the region's volunteers.
The 2020 NSW Volunteer of the Year for the Southern Sydney region is Wanda Surf Life Saving volunteer John Douglas.
John has been the mainstay of Wanda Surf Life Saving for more than 40 years, having trained hundreds of nippers and made the beach a safer place as the coach of the Rescue and Resuscitation operations.
John has continued his lifelong volunteering as a coach with St Josephs Junior Rugby League and Basketball teams and with the local RFS, joining the courageous community fight against the 1994 Jannali and Como bushfire.
The Young Volunteer of the Year is Katia Liaros from Blakehurst
Katia is a volunteer concierge with Hammond Care aged care facilities, a new role designed to keep residents safe during COVID-19 restrictions. She greets and screens visitors to aged care facilities, making sure health guidelines are maintained while visitors can still visit loved ones.
The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards is an annual program run by The Centre for Volunteering which has grown to become one of the largest celebrations of volunteering across the country.
The Centre for Volunteering CEO Gemma Rygate said she couldn't be more proud of the region's volunteers and their incredible resilience and spirit.
"Volunteers from across every region of NSW have continued to give their time, energy and compassion in the face of enormous adversity over the past 12 months. This is what the Australian spirit is all about. Helping others. Helping your community and never giving up."
NSW Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward said volunteers are the essence and flavour of our regional communities.
"They're the people raising money for vital causes, they're there for us in terms of emergency and they're the friend on the end of a phone breaking the cycle of isolation.
"We can't put a price on volunteers," he said
Regional finalists for the awards are announced at 25 ceremonies throughout NSW and are invited to the Gala State Ceremony for the announcement of the 2020 NSW Volunteer of the Year.
The 2020 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards is supported by principal partners the NSW Department of Communities and Justice and ClubsNSW, which represents the state's 1,400 not-for-profit clubs.