It would come as no surprise to people who know the work of Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands that founder Linda Strickland has been named North West Sydney’s Volunteer of the Year.
She started the organisation with her daughter Cassidy nine years ago after her then 9-year-old asked how they could help the homeless. What started as a visit to the Hawkesbury river bank with some food for rough sleepers has turned into a seven-day a week operation to meet a four-fold increase in demand during the current Covid crisis.
Linda estimates they are now feeding about 2500 people a week though the organisation’s programs. The program provides school breakfasts, lunches and at the weekends still visits Howe Park to feed the homeless.
It recently served well over 500,000 plates of food and has also been giving hampers to international students needing assistance.
Last year as well as handing out food hampers and providing a meals service to the homeless, Hawkesbury Helping Hands also delivered 16,000 breakfasts and 12,000 lunches to students at high school and public school. The team also holds regular barbecues at The Hive in South Windsor and is now helping other charities.
The 2020 North West Young Volunteer of the Year is Harrison Bayssari, who at 18 has turned things around in the world of referees.
More than 5,000 young rugby league players across Western Sydney have been able to return to the game they love, thanks to Harrison’s commitment.
He is the youngest ever volunteer CEO at the Parramatta District Rugby League Referees Association. He helps manage 70 referees who adjudicate 180 games of junior rugby league games throughout Western Sydney each week and oversees seven volunteers.
The North West Senior Volunteer of the Year is Elaine Todd. The Baulkham Hills resident has undertaken more than 25 volunteer roles at Royal Rehab over the past five years.
She helps transport residents from their home to community events such as choirs and fairs – helping them to maintain positive connections in the community.
She said she was very surprised to be nominated let alone win the award. “There are so many people who do more than I do.” The retired accounts administrator said volunteering at Royal Rehab maintained a family link to the centre which stretched back more than 60 years.
Her aunt, mother, father and uncle all worked there during the 60s and 70s. “I used to go and help mum at the annual Fete they used to hold there,” she said.
Volunteer Team of the Year is The Canine Court Companion Program run by Guide Dog NSW/ACT.
The 56 team members attend 11 court locations throughout Sydney and regional NSW with their trained therapy dogs.
They help decrease anxiety and distress often felt by people attending court such as domestic violence victims and their families. The program was started three years ago and has been expanded.
The Centre for Volunteering CEO Gemma Rygate said: “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.”