Citizen of the Year: Ted Wilkins

Ted Wilkins and Cynthia Watson

The Boroondara Citizen of the Year Awards acknowledge the unsung heroes in our community who generously devote their time to help others.

At the 2020 Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony, one such hero, Ted Wilkins, was awarded ‘Citizen of the Year’ for his exceptional contributions to our community.

Ted Wilkins has been an active member of the community for many years, devoting his time to numerous organisations and community groups including the Rotary Club of North Balwyn, the North Balwyn Uniting Church Council and the Carols Committee of the North Balwyn InterChurch Council.

A long-time Rotarian, Ted has been involved in a wide range of activities raising funds for many charities and community needs, including Rotary’s mental health research fund and the North Balwyn Community Men’s Shed. 

“The Men’s Shed has been a wonderful thing that has given older people a sense of belonging,” Ted said. “I was 63 when I got involved in the Rotary and I wish I had got into it sooner. The entire organisation does wonderful work which helps Boroondara but also places around the country, and around the world.” 

The fact that someone chose to nominate me came out of the blue, I was very surprised and very honoured to be awarded Citizen of the Year.

For over 10 years, Ted’s tireless efforts have also been the driving force behind the delivery of the Carols in the Park event at Macleay Park, from extensive fundraising, to planning, through to on-the-ground event set up and pack up. 

“When I first got involved in the event we would see around 1500 to 2000 people attend, now we see up to 5000 people there. It’s such a wonderful event getting people of diverse backgrounds, from all areas of the community, together for a happy picnic event - it’s a great night,” Ted said. 

Ted is a generous, reliable and astute person, offering a wealth of invaluable advice drawing on his career of over 40 years in insurance. To this day, he continues to live an active and selfless life supporting his family, organisations and causes.

For more information about the awards, see Citizens and volunteer awards or call 9278 4475.

Volunteer of the Year: Verna Woods

Verna Woods

Local Balwyn resident Verna Woods was recently awarded 2020 Volunteer of the Year for her tireless work running Balwyn High School’s second-hand book program.

Since establishing the second-hand bookshop in 1989 as an initiative of the Balwyn Chaplaincy Committee, Verna has transformed the way the 2,200 students and their parents access and sell second-hand books.

“When I first started, I was President of the Parents’ Committee. People would just come along on a particular night and trade books with each other and while it was a great community event, it wasn’t sustainable. I thought let’s get out there and see how other schools run their shops,” Verna said.

Verna and her sister visited multiple schools for inspiration and established a new system which has evolved and integrated new technology over the years. 

“That’s one thing I love about this role, it pushes me to learn new things and gives purpose to the week. Knowing ‘I can do it’, when I feared I couldn’t manage those e-codes or changing timetables, or upgrading computers (wretched things),” Verna said. 

Verna grew up in a culture of volunteering, with the norm in her family to lend a helping hand to those in need. Over the past 3 decades, Verna’s own family have all volunteered in the bookshop at certain points with all of her 6 children attending Balwyn High School. 

The second-hand bookstore has been a wonderful resource for Balwyn High School. Thousands of books have been recycled, families have saved and made money through buying and selling respectively and proceeds from book sales have funded a trained Chaplain to provide support and guidance to the students of Balwyn High School.

Fellow bookshop volunteer Helen Schweiger nominated Verna for the award for being a true example of a selfless, humble volunteer. 

“Hundreds of parents have made the pilgrimage to Verna’s front veranda to collect a carefully prepared plastic bag full of school books so their child can start school fully prepped. Verna has made, and continues to make, a significant difference to the lives of families in Boroondara,” Helen wrote. 

Volunteering is about seeing. Noticing things that could be better, things that could help people, the environment, animals, situations. Seeing, then believing, then doing something about it.

If you are interested in volunteering your time to a community organisation in Boroondara, you can visit our new online portal to create a profile and start searching for volunteering opportunities.

Visit our Volunteering opportunities page or call the Boroondara Volunteer Resource Centre on 9278 4550.

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