Two Bega Valley women have been recognised for their unwavering commitment to their communities as finalists in the Rotary Inspirational Women's Awards.
Twenty inspiring women were announced as 2021's finalists across several categories on Wednesday by NSW Minister for Women Bronnie Taylor, supported by NSW Governor Margaret Beazley AC, patron of the awards.
Sarah Bancroft has been recognised for her youth outreach with the PCYC as part of her work with the NSW Police, and Bermagui surf lifesaver Cheryl McCarthy for her efforts in evacuations during the Black Summer bushfires.
Both said they were "incredibly humbled" by the nominations, saying their efforts were driven by a love of the community, not recognition.
"It's certainly not ever why you contribute in your community, so it's certainly humbling in that regard," Ms McCarthy said of Wednesday's announcement.
Ms Bancroft said the past 18 months or so had been a trying time for everyone and it was almost impossible to manage for the mothers trying to balance their home lives with work and their passion to help the community.
"I've got two young ones at home and we've had to manage that, especially with my son needing some pretty intense medical needs," Ms Bancroft said.
"So you can get a bit bogged down with the work you do - and that's okay, that's why we do it, but it's nice to get that accolade to be told you're doing a good job."
Ms Bancroft said she had no aspirations of winning the award, adding that all the contenders would be "wonderful, wonderful women", but said it had refuelled her passion for helping.
"I think it just reinvigorates your passion for the work you do - you turn yourself inside out trying to make a change for the youth in the area, so something as little as being nominated - let alone being named a finalist means a lot."
Meanwhile, Ms McCarthy said making the shortlist for the award was a reflection on a wider community effort than any individual part she played in evacuations during the bushfires.
"How I contributed during the Black Summer bushfires was very much part of a large team effort by surf life savers, it's almost uncomfortable in a way being nominated knowing how many others put in a huge effort," she said.
Ms McCarthy hoped the acknowledgement would link back to the broader efforts of life savers up and down the coast.
"We're so much more than just between the red and yellow flags, we're a core part of the community and we'll jump in and lend a hand when the chips are down," she said.
"We were proud and honoured that people sought refuge with us and we take that very seriously."
And while helping the community through the trauma of those bushfires, flooding and the pandemic since could be easiest forgotten, Ms McCarthy said that would be an injustice to the enormous community efforts that are still ongoing.
"I think it was a very traumatic time for so many people in so many different ways, we lived our own individual experiences ... I think it's really important that, while some of those memories are hard, we don't forget.
"The recovery has been slow and long and still so many are without homes, so we would do a real injustice to those people if we don't continue to reflect on that."
COVID-19 has shelved many community get togethers and denied many a chance to heal those wounds, but Ms McCarthy said the chance to have some "normal" over the summer and feel the sand between her toes monitoring the beach was a welcome shift.
"Being back at the beach and just doing our job as lifesavers was a bit cathartic," she said.
"We also noticed the importance for the kids, the nippers coming together and having that bit of normal, so many had lost homes and were displaced so reconnecting like that was really important."
Ms Bancroft, who recently spent seven months doing outreach work at Eden Marine High before returning to her role with the NSW Police said checking in with kids has been pivotal for many.
She and her team visited at-risk kids and provided activity bags, while the PCYC also provides a needed outlet for many.
Winners of the Rotary Inspirational Women Awards won't be named until September with local contenders joining the ceremony by video link. Ms Bancroft said they might try to make a night of it, but had not cemented any plans yet.
Ms Taylor said the awards are a fantastic opportunity to shine a light upon the enormous contribution of women in both urban and rural communities across NSW.
The judges, comprising panels of Rotarians from across the state, have expressed how the high quality of nominations have made their task very challenging and a wonderful honour.
"Each and every finalist is fully deserving of recognition for the tireless and generous work they do in their communities. They give so much and ask for nothing in return and I congratulate them on their nomination," Ms Taylor said.