Rebecca (Beck) Beverley was floored when she discovered a Facebook post announcing she was chosen as Adult Volunteer of the Year for the Upper North Coast region.
"I didn't even know I was nominated," she said.
The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards, now in their 14th year, are said to be one of the largest celebrations of volunteering across the country.
To be eligible for an award, all nominees must "have given their time willingly for the common good and without financial gain" over the previous 12 months.
Beck is one of a number of people to have been recognised for her work during the aftermath and recovery from the Black Summer Bushfires.
Rebecca has been an inspirational support for the her local bushfire-impacted community. She helped her community in numerous ways, including setting up a recovery hub which contained a food pantry, washing machine, showers, shelter and clothes, so people could return to their properties. She has also engaged mental health and legal services, charities to help with grants, worked hard to get internet in the area for the first time, held a trivia night funding the back to school resources, and partnered with Rotary to create a tool library for those in need.NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards citation
Beck said she felt "honoured" to have been nominated by people in the community, and then to have been selected as the winner for our region.
"I'm really appreciative, but there were so many others who helped alongside me," she said.
"In my mind this award is as much for them because I wouldn't have been able to do what I did without their help."
Beck said she was "humbled" by the experience of helping those in our community who'd lost so much in the fires.
"I saw what I did, and what I continue to do, as a privilege," she said.
"To me it's the greatest privilege to be invited into people's lives at their toughest moments.
Being the South Arm Hub coordinator was an incredibly taxing job on Beck, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
"Grief comes out in all different ways - some of those were challenging," she said.
"It definitely took a huge toll on me.
"But in the end, I believe it was worth it. My struggle was a drop in the ocean compared to theirs.
"And I think this will be one of those defining moments in my life."
The South Arm Pantry was closed earlier this year, but Beck continues to advocate for people directly affected by the fires in Nambucca Valley, connecting them with essential services, and alerting them to grant opportunities.
She's also currently working with others from South Australia to develop a more effective response to disasters through ready-to-go support structures and systems.
The end goal is to have their response strategy adopted by government, ready to roll out fluidly whenever disaster strikes.
"Ultimately, if we don't learn from this tragedy, that will be the biggest travesty," she said.
Beck has been invited to attend a special virtual gala ceremony for the announcement of the state winner later this year.
We wish her all the best.