Community heroes celebrated during National Volunteers Week Port POPUP - DAupdate Port Stephens Port Stephens News by News Of The Area - Modern Media - May 17, 2023 The unstoppable Margaret Wilkinson with some of the other Nelson Bay Civic Pride volunteers. Photo: Marian Sampson. VOLUNTEERS are the backbone of our community. You will find them in service clubs, working for charitable causes, and even weeding the gardens in townships like Nelson Bay. No matter what your interests are, there is somewhere that you can volunteer and make a real difference in our local area. The Port Stephens Koala Hospital has volunteer koala carers and the Koala Sanctuary operates tours delivered by volunteers. Landcare groups work tirelessly to improve our environment. Community advocacy groups like the Tomaree Residents and Ratepayers Association, Business Port Stephens and Port Stephens Tourism are managed by volunteer boards. It would be impossible not to mention Rotarians, Lions and Probus Clubs, all of which are filled with volunteers. Tireless community volunteer Margaret Wilkinson donates her time to several local groups. “I organise a working bee each week for our Corlette Reserves and Landcare Group. “This is a wonderful group of fifteen regular volunteers who basically tidy up the bits which Council doesn’t get to at our Corlette foreshore reserves. “Meanwhile at Bagnall Beach Reserve and along the Bartlett Cycleway we have a sub-group, ‘Baggies Bush Regen’, who basically weed the bush so that native plants can make an appearance – hence providing better habitat for our native birds and animals.” Not stopping there, Margaret also keeps an eye on several gardens in Nelson Bay CBD as a volunteer with Nelson Bay Civic Pride Group – one that has shrunk in size since the special working bee to revamp the CBD held in May 2019. “The feedback that the Civic Pride Group volunteers receive from passers by is so appreciative of the difference made to the feel of Nelson Bay by just a handful of volunteers.” Margaret is also Secretary of Christmas Bush Garden Club. “The Christmas Bush Garden Club has been going for 40 years in Nelson Bay however it, like many other volunteer based organisations, is struggling to get office bearers to keep the Club going.” Volunteers for the club organise guest speakers and garden outings. “It’s a wonderful outlet for those with interest in gardening – our older demographic is proving to be the biggest challenge,” she said. Margaret also acknowledges just how many in the Corlette community just go and volunteer without being part of any particular group. “It’s the reason why we perceive there’s limited littering in Corlette when just last Sunday morning we spotted two locals, Ron and Sue Hayes, out picking it up along our roadway. “Ron also helps remove graffiti as part of the Graffiti Action Team who are organised by the legendary volunteer Judy Washington (also of the Nelson Bay Civic Pride Group).” Port Stephens Councillor Leah Anderson also has extensive experience as a volunteer in her community. She is an active member of the Rotary Club of Salamander Bay and has volunteered on community boards includingg Nelson Bay Town Management, Business Port Stephens, Destination Port Stephens and Port Stephens Koalas. Leah is also the founder and a life member of Port Stephens Women in Business and volunteers at the Port Stephens Koala Hospital every Saturday morning. “Volunteers are the backbone of our community,” Leah told News Of The Area. “We have a large number of volunteers enhancing and protecting our environment, such as landcare groups, wildlife care and rescue, parks and gardens and our marine parks. “We have volunteers protecting our community every single day, such as SES, RFS and Marine Rescue. “We have parents, friends and families who volunteer to support all of our various sporting clubs. “We have community groups and associations, where volunteers meet to discuss community concerns and advocate for their community. “We have service clubs, such as Rotary, Lions and Apex, who are actively out fundraising and supporting their local communities. “I am sure I have missed many, the list goes on and on. “I can not imagine what our communities would be like, if we did not have our amazing community volunteers. “I, for one, am very thankful and grateful for them all,” she said. By Marian SAMPSON Megan Harding is a long term volunteer with the Nelson Bay RSL sub-Branch who has been working with veterans for many years. Photo: Marian Sampson.