Our annual Citizen of Year Community Awards is took a different approach in 2020. While COVID-19 restrictions are still in force and there is a focus on social distancing and staying at home, we found a different way to honour our cities wonderful volunteers and acknowledge the vital contribution individuals and groups make in our community.
During National Volunteers Week (18–24 May), Glen Eira Mayor Cr Margaret Esakoff announced the winners of our Citizen of the Year, Young Citizen of the Year and Community Group of the Year Awards via a pre-recorded announcement. The Awards recognise residents and community groups in the City of Glen Eira who have significantly contributed to the local community.
Young Citizen of the Year — Jonah Feiglin
Jonah Feiglin was selected Young Citizen of the Year because of his self-motivation, persistence and determination to make a difference. He initiated a charity project this year with his school, Leibler Yavneh College, and put in an incredible amount of hard work to make the programs happen by influencing a team of students to be involved.
His events raised awareness and money to support Helping Hoops, an independent charity organisation that runs basketball clinics and programs to inspire, empower and support children and young people from underprivileged backgrounds. Jonah brought students from all year levels together and raised $5,000 to support this organisation.
Jonah’s motivation for completing this fundraising event was that he cares about the cause and loves basketball. He used his passion to make a difference to other community members less fortunate than himself. He has had a positive impact on his peers and his school. Jonah's nomination described his respectful nature and calm yet caring demeanour, which bring others along to work and learn with him.
His nomination impressed the panel because of his demonstration of leadership, the reach of his activity, and Jonah’s enterprise in pursuing good community outcomes.
We considered seven nominations for this award. We would like to provide a special mention to the Runner-up in this category, Isabel Tsintsiper.
Citizen of the Year — Mary Torpy
Mary Torpy has been actively involved with the Glen Eira community for more than 30 years. She has contributed through music and sport and has helped connect innumerable young people to their community. The Glen Eira community has benefitted greatly from her contributions which include:
- organising a playgroup for local mums
- setting up a children’s program and choir at the Holy Cross Church
- supporting approximately 12 elderly residents near her home through visits, cooking and transport until they died
- volunteering in the classroom and the tuckshop at St. Kevin’s Primary School
- organising and providing all the music and singing for sacramental masses
- being a team manager for Ormond Bandits Basketball Club for more than 10 years. She has also been team manager for Murrumbeena and Caulfield South Netball teams.
Mary is also a member of the Ashton Smith Singers of Australia and on the voluntary board. Over the past 24 years, she has volunteered as MC, ticket secretary, organiser, publicist and of course singer and performer for their annual Christmas Concert.
Mary has always, and continues to sing at funerals, celebrations and major events on a voluntary basis, not only for those within her more immediate circles in Caulfield South and Ormond but for many other people who contact her through their local connections.
We considered eight nominations for this award. We would like to provide a special mention to the Runner-up in this category, Abby Levy.
Community Group of the Year — Impact for Women and Access Inc.
We considered 15 nominations for this award. The competition for Community Group of the Year is always fierce because we have so many amazing organisations doing great work. This year, we have selected two organisations as joint winners — Impact for Women and Access Inc.
Impact for Women
Impact for Women was selected as joint winner for the work they do to raise awareness, and the contribution they make to people experiencing family violence. Over the past 13 years, this work has had an impact in Glen Eira and the broader community.
The program utilises the collective commitment of hundreds of volunteers who give their time, needed items and thousands of dollars to pack gift bags for women in refuges and shelters across Melbourne. In the 13 years since Impact began, approximately 13,500 ‘Bags of Love’ have been distributed.
In 2006 when the project began, the bags contained about $65 of donated items. This year each bag has about $300 of donated items. In total, almost $2.2 million worth of items have been donated and distributed.
On two packing days annually, up to 400 volunteers from diverse cultural and faith communities gather to pack bags — most of these volunteers are Glen Eira residents. The volunteers pack approximately 1,400 Bags of Love filled with donated gifts, toiletries, other essentials and some treats ahead of Christmas. They also pack bags with bigger and bulkier items for distribution to safe houses and bags of toys for distribution to children. After packing, about 90 volunteer drivers deliver the bags to safe houses and refuges all over Melbourne.
Impact has also fundraised to conduct repairs and refurbishments to some safe houses. The organisation provided assistance through interest-free loans; nearly $40,000 of grants to refuges, and $48,000 worth of children’s items to support the children of women in hiding.
Access Inc. was selected as joint winner for the great work it does in demystifying disability, fostering belonging and helping our community appreciate the value of diversity.
Access Inc. partners with adults with disabilities to achieve goals in areas that are important to belonging and having meaningful lives. The group recognise that often, the barriers faced by people with disabilities have little to do with their actual ability and more to do with societal misconceptions, so they find creative, supportive and personalised solutions to encourage success.
These include educational courses aimed at building confidence and skills and helping participants to gain practical experience, such as:
- Access Hospitality, which includes Access Bakery; Healthy Cooking Skills; Introduction to Commercial Cooking; Access Espresso; and Front of House. The Pop Up Café provides the work experience component for some of the Access Hospitality Programs.
- Life Learning, which includes Life Skills, Access My Hood; and Access Civic.
- Access Health and Leisure, which includes Art Studio; Healthy Me; and Drumming.
Access Inc. was started 30 years ago by parents of children with disabilities who believed their voices and those of their children were not being heard. They have now changed that.