Shirley May Rixon, 69, has been awarded with a Medal of the Order of Australia for her selfless voluntary work throughout the Bega Valley Shire.
Her passion for volunteering, especially assisting the sick or elderly, started from the ripe age of six when living in Kiah.
A neighbour needed help looking after his 88 year old father while he picked corn for market. She would help feed the man and help him around the house.
Ms Rixon said the elderly man's appreciation and the gratitude of his son made a lasting impact on her, and so started her journey to use her own time to help others.
Her career started in the early 1970s as a assistant nurse at Bega hospital. When she became a mother, she said she began to see other needs in the community, such as children struggling with learning disabilities.
She said one of the highlights during that time was when she became the publicity officer of the Bega Area Difficulties Learning Support Group.
The group helped to bring down a paediatrician from Nowra who continued to work with children in the Bega Valley for the next 25 years.
Nowadays, her daily routine does not usually have much structure to it as she often gets calls for assistance.
"If someone contacts me when they're in need, I set everything aside and I help the person or the groups involved," she said.
Ms Rixon said much of her conviction to do good in the community comes from her faith. She often prays for answers to problems or listens to what, "my heart tells me to do".
She has volunteered for a number of different organisations in the Bega Valley.
She has been involved with the Pambula District Hospital Auxiliary for many years, a volunteer golden girl at Pambula District Hospital, a Tathra and Black Summer bushfire volunteer, and the Tathra and Bega neighbourhood watch.
She has also devoted much of her time to fundraising and helped local sporting teams.
"I've never stayed in particular with one organisation, because there's so many needs to be met. People just don't get the help that they need at that particular time."
Ms Rixon was instrumental in reforming the Pambula District Hospital Auxiliary when it was on the brink of being closed in 2009 due to a lack of volunteers.
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She brought along some other local women to the AGM and helped the committee to continue with their work. She eventually became vice-president and then president.
In July 2021 she stepped back from her work with the auxiliary to be a golden girl at Pambula hospital. She assists with elderly patients and helps nurses carry out hygiene requirements and distribute meals.
Neighbourhood Watch was another highlight of her years as a volunteer. For 12 years, she was the secretary and publicity officer for both the Bega and Tathra branches.
She often attended shows and events to spread the message about the importance of "keeping the community safe".
After the Black Summer bushfires she worked with Anglicare in Quaama and Cobargo to provide support and advice to people about available grant funding.
Although the support has been pulled from the area in more recent years, she has continued to offer this support to people who still suffer from grief and loss as a result of the fires.
Besides health, Ms Rixon has another great passion in life and that's sport, especially Aussie rules.
She has spent many hours doing volunteer photography as well as assisting in timekeeping for clubs all over the Sapphire Coast.
"You just feel like you're part of the family when you're part of a club, it's just beautiful."
But sport and health are both connected for Ms Rixon who said after she had a severe injury in 2003, felt obligated to help others use activity to help heal themselves.
"I really believe in health and fitness."
Ms Rixon now also runs a weekly walk in Merimbula under the banner of the Heart Foundation and has done so since 2013.
On receiving the citation of her OAM, Ms Rixon said she had mixed feelings.
"I didn't think I'd be worthy of such an award, I still in my heart am coming to terms with it. I just feel that I'm just one person that just goes out and does what needs to be done," she said.
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