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By BRIDGET COOK

IT would be hard to find more reluctant award recipients than at the Casey Volunteer Awards winners.
That’s because volunteering takes a special, selfless kind of person, someone who is willing to give up countless hours of their time and energy, often for no recognition or reward other than knowing they are doing what they can to help others.
But the recipients received the recognition they deserved at the 14th annual awards which were held at the Casey Civic Centre on Friday night.
The council honoured more than 70 people and organisations that were nominated and announced six winners.
City of Casey Mayor Geoff Ablett said the awards recognised the most outstanding of Casey’s many volunteers and celebrated the commitment shown by those who make an extraordinary contribution.
“Whether it’s in the arts, education, disability services, sport and recreation, emergency services, health care, migrant support or aged services, Casey’s local volunteers are all working to improve people’s lives,” he said.
“Each volunteer, in their own way, has made a significant contribution towards making our community a better place.
“I congratulate every nominee as well as the volunteers who may not have been nominated this year but are out there doing good work all year round – your achievements are inspiring.”

The 2014 Casey Volunteer Award winners:

  • Robin Dzedins – Casey Individual Volunteer Award

For more than 20 years, Robin Dzedins has volunteered with a broad range of conservation and community organisations throughout Casey. Her knowledge and interest in the conservation of bushland and coastal environments in Casey has led to volunteer roles with the Friends of Warneet Environmental Group, Western Port Catchment Committee and City of Casey Conservation Advisory Committee. Ms Dzedins also volunteers her time and expertise as a committee member on a range of community groups including the Lynbrook Residents Association, the City of Casey Ageing Positively Steering Group, Hampton Park Resource Recovery Precinct Community Reference Group, and previously with the Warneet Residents Association and Cannons Creek Residents Association. Robin has been an active Justice of the Peace since 2004 and is passionate about promoting equality and inclusiveness in the City of Casey.
Speaking at the awards, Ms Dzedins said it was inspiring to hear what other volunteers were doing in the community.
“We have all seen a need in the community and we’ve done something about it and intend to keep going,” she said.

  • Barb Richardson – Casey Individual Volunteer Award

Barb Richardson has been actively involved with Casey Meals on Wheels since 2009, spending about 12 hours per week delivering meals with her daughter Tara, for whom she is a carer. For five years, Ms Richardson has also volunteered her time as a bus driver, transporting clients to appointments and newly arrived residents to various activities. On an informal basis, she supports Casey’s older residents by transporting them to lunch groups, social activities, appointments and shopping.
Close to tears, Ms Richardson said she was humbled to receive the award.
“We take great joy in the work we do in the community and we get a lot back from what we do,” she said.
“Thanks to everyone who allows us to help them.”

  • Justine Jaramillo – Casey Young Volunteer Award

Justine Jaramillo is a member of the City of Casey Youth Action Committee which aims to better support the youth of Casey and empower young people as genuine leaders in their community. He has taken an active role in the alcohol and drugs project group in helping to organise a forum for parents and young people. Through leadership and volunteering roles at school and in the community, Justine encourages confidence in others through his dedication and enthusiasm.
Justin said he never expected to receive the award when he attended the ceremony.
“I know many young people who are doing much better things than me and volunteers doing such great things,” he said.
“This award goes to every young person who is doing volunteer work in our city.”

  • Meghan Porteous and Jenni Verhagen – Casey Volunteering Pair Award

In 2005, Meghan Porteous and Jenni Verhagen came together when their sons were diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. They could not find any information about locally based programs or places to meet with other parents, so they started Casey Asperger Syndrome Support. The group runs programs for children of all ages, provides seminars for adults, has its own library of relevant titles for families to borrow, gives talks at local schools and libraries and provides much needed support for families in Casey and surrounding areas. Since 2005, the pair have taken on the roles of president and secretary respectively, working together to help families with a child or children on the autism spectrum and each volunteering 10 hours a week for the group.
Ms Porteous said it was an honour to receive the award.
“Every week we get together with kids and families and support them in their challenges surrounding autism,” she said.
“We live the challenge every week and we share our knowledge and experiences with the rest of our group.
“This is for all the families out there who may be struggling with autism.”

  • Akoonah Park Men’s Shed – Casey Volunteer Group Award

The Akoonah Park Men’s Shed offers a great place for men to meet, mingle, share a cuppa and maybe apply their expertise in trades. Since it began in 2012, the group has grown from about 20 men who attended the first meeting to more than 80 members today. The volunteers take part in local community events, meet with local service groups and arrange talks on men’s health issues for their members. The benefits of the group extend beyond the men, to their wives, families, friends and colleagues.
President Brian Hetherton said the group’s large attendance showed the need for such an organisation in Casey.
“The comradery of the men’s shed is something you have to be a part to really appreciate,” he said.

  • Christians Helping in Primary Schools Inc (CHIPS) – Casey Volunteer Organisation Award

CHIPS is a local children’s charity which provides about 300 volunteers who are linked with and support local primary school communities in Casey. Programs run by CHIPS volunteers in schools each week include day activities, sailing, mentoring, camps and family fun days. A significant volunteer activity was the first Christmas with CHIPS lunch, held in 2013, where 106 volunteers came together offering help to organise the lunch which was attended by 46 needy families.
CHIPS has one full time and 13 part-time staff and, together with the volunteers, make contact with more than 6000 primary school children. The ripple effect of the CHIPS activities are felt throughout families and communities, enriching the lives of those involved and have a positive impact on the Casey community.
CHIPS camp co-ordinator Mellissa McIllory thanked all those involved in CHIPS for making their program possible.
“We have just put 50 kids, who have experienced abuse and neglect, on a bus to Phillip Island for the Life Gets Better camp,” she said.
“There are more than 100 volunteers ready to hang out with them for the whole weekend.”

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