TWO men, known throughout the shire for different reasons, have been jointly named Bega Valley Shire Senior Citizen of the Year 2014.
Allen Collins of Tathra and John “Jim” McGrath of Berrambool received their joint award from Deputy Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick at the Senior Citizens Week Golden Gig lunch hosted by the council at Club Sapphire Club Merimbula.
Cr Fitzpatrick said both Mr Collins and Mr McGrath had made enormous contributions to the Bega Valley Shire community - Mr Collins mainly in the health sector, and Mr McGrath in the surf lifesaving movement.
He said Mr Collins had arrived in the shire in 2003 and immediately hit the ground running as an active community advocate and worker.
“In fact, the week after his arrival he joined the Bega Combined Probus Club and he is still a member today,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.
“He has also served in various capacities on numerous committees, including the Bega Valley Health Advisory Council; the community lobby group, Operation New Hospital; and, after undergoing care training, he visits the Bega District Hospital with the pastoral care and trauma care teams of volunteers.”
Mayor Bill Taylor said Mr Collins was particularly proud to have been the only community member on the progress planning team for the new South East Regional Hospital.
“He also served on the ANU’s local community consultation committee on medical training and was a member of the Tathra Hospital Auxiliary for three years, taking pride in representing and raising awareness and funds for the Bega District Hospital,” Cr Taylor said.
“Mr Collins’ interest in health and aged care issues took him on to the board of Imlay House where he served in various capacities, including vice-president and treasurer, for four years.
“He has been a member of the Bega RSL sub-branch for six years and is now senior vice-president.
“He organises the sale of poppies every November, and does hospital visits to ex-service personnel and represents the RSL at funerals.
“His latest activity is organising the local celebration of the Gallipoli landing centenary next April.”
Cr Fitzpatrick said Mr Collins is also a religious man who has served his church as a warden and parish councillor of Saint John’s Anglican Church.
“He now serves as religious minister of the elderly in the parish and, with his team, organises activities and assistance for the aged, including bus trips and social occasions.
“He is the coordinator of the Tathra Carols by Candlelight every year and was on the committee of the Wambiri Youth Centre for six years and acted as manager for 15 months.
“Mr Collins also has an interest in maintaining our history which prompted him to join the committee of the Pig and Whistle Fleet museum that records the days when Tathra Wharf was a busy hub of industry in the shire.”
Cr Fitzpatrick said joint Senior of the Year recipient Mr McGrath had been a dedicated stalwart of the surf lifesaving clubs throughout the shire for the past 50 years.
“His mechanical knowledge has always been a great asset to the clubs and his skill and experience has been crucial in averting incidents or preventing ongoing problems with equipment.
“Mr McGrath has excelled with young Nippers in the Pambula Surf Club, teaching them to swim and be surf-savvy as they went on to obtain their bronze medallions and grow into the senior members of the club.
“He has taught hundreds of young people about their role and responsibility when being a boat crew member, handling rubber ducks and keeping all equipment in good order.
“Jim is a role model to people both young and old. By his actions he has shown what it means to be a contributor to his community,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.
Some 300 people were at the Golden Gig for the Senior of the Year announcement, which was followed by lunch and entertainment.
The entertainment was provided by Pambula Public School Choir, Footprint Theatre, the Eden Singers, Michael Menager and well-known local Tura Beach jazz musicians, Margie and Tony Fullerton with Colleen Spillane with ABC identity Jen Hunt as compere.
Bega High School Year 11 students of community and family studies and food and beverage were the food servers at the event.
While the Senior Citizen of the Year award was a highlight among many activities being held across the shire in Seniors Week, details of other events are available on the Seniors Week calendar on the Bega Valley Shire Council website, www.begavalley.nsw.gov.au