Alan Foley, winner of the 2011 NSW Volunteer of the Year award.
Alan Foley, winner of the 2011 NSW Volunteer of the Year award. Cathy Adams

Honouring our unsung heroes

VOLUNTEERS are a vital asset to a community - their selfless commitment helps to keep the wheels of service agencies and a huge range of organisations running smoothly.

Today is International Volunteers Day.

Intended to celebrate volunteers and thank them for the contribution they make, the day was marked in Lismore on Friday by a free breakfast, awards ceremony and fashion parade.

Lismore was proud to name Alan Foley, a volunteer with Lismore's Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC), as the NSW Volunteer of the Year.

Mr Foley, whose passion for teaching judo at the PCYC gained him the award, is attending another ceremony at Parliament House today where he will be presented with his trophy by the Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Vincent Dominello.

Co-ordinator of volunteers at the Lismore Neighbourhood Centre, Jeanette Tyler, said the awards breakfast was held to honour the many thousands of unsung heroes in our community who are the backbone of community organisations.

Addressing the volunteers, Ms Tyler said: "Your involvement and contribution is vital to the services you support. You matter, and you make a difference."

Certificates were awarded to 80 Northern Rivers people who had been volunteering for more than ten years.

There were several volunteers present who had given more than 30 years service.

One of them was 77-year old Joy Hall, of Lismore, who has given one afternoon a week to volunteer at the Lismore Neighbourhood Centre.

"After my children had started school I had to do something to occupy my mind," Ms Hall said.

"I look forward to my afternoon at the Neighbourhood Centre. The people have become like my family.

"As well as being there one afternoon a week, I compile the Community Calendar for The Northern Star from home on a Sunday morning.

Ms Hall said there were challenges associated with her work.

The previous day, an elderly man using a walking frame came in and told staff he was homeless and needed somewhere to sleep that night.

He had been referred to the appropriate agency but Ms Hall said she did not know the outcome and was concerned for the man's situation.

A highlight of Friday's gathering was a fashion parade hosted by Nora Vidler-Blanksby and based on popular TV series such as the Beverly Hillbillies, I Dream of Jeannie and as a finale Greenacres, in which Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell did a fine impersonation of Zsa Zsa Gabor.



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