Volunteer of the year



Long-time Mosman resident Trish Bennell was set up in the boardroom at Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) with sparkling wine and finger food, and they joined a Zoom conference.

This was not your run of the mill virtual meeting, as the treats suggest, but a presentation of the 2020 North Shore Volunteer of the Year Awards.

The affable 76-year-old was being presented with the Senior Volunteer of the Year award, but she was left speechless when she was also announced as the 2020 NSW Volunteer of the Year for the Sydney North Shore region.

Her six years of valued service at CPA – starting as a driver, to now ensuring all its volunteers work as a well-oiled machine – prompted the organisation to nominate her, and the Centre for Volunteering then awarded her the senior and overall gongs.

She now goes into the running for the 2020 NSW Volunteer of the Year, which will be announced at the Gala State Ceremony in December.

“Trish was very much a saviour for me! She is a delight to work alongside whenever given the chance,” one volunteer at CPA tells North Shore Living

“With her impeccable organisation, and efficient and elegant manner, I always feel very much looked after.”

Trish, who’s also been a dedicated member of Mosman’s Meals on Wheels for the past 15 years, did her best to deflect the attention to CPA, which she says is an “amazing organisation… It’s absolutely extraordinary what they do!”

“I needed to be able to keep myself occupied as much as I could. It’s not a big deal, it really isn’t.”

She linked up with CPA by chance, when a girlfriend working at CPA lost her licence on points and needed someone to drive a couple of days a week. From there, she began doing clerical and computer work, and now coordinates a team of CPA’s volunteers.

“I’d retired, so I had time on my hands and they’re a great bunch of people to work with,” she says, when asked why she committed.

“I was understanding of how difficult it is for some of these families with children that are disabled, and I was just happy to do my bit for the community in that regard.”

Watching Trish’s reaction to the major award on Zoom, she was clearly shocked her name was called. 

“I was absolutely blown away by it all,” she nods. 

“All the fuss that’s being made, it’s very flattering I have to say! But I’m just an elderly person doing my bit. 

“Having had a great life, and a good working life, I wasn’t ready to put the tools down and retire totally.”

The other North Shore volunteers to have been recognised were Shen Goh (Young Volunteer); John Ogier (Adult Volunteer); The Mentoring Men program (Team Volunteers).

Joe McDonough, Editor-in-Chief, North Shore Living Magazine

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