Jim McGrath recognised for his work with Surf Life Saving and APEX

Two men, known throughout the shire for different reasons, have been jointly named Bega Valley Shire Senior Citizen of the Year 2014.

John ‘Jim’ McGrath of Berrambool and Allen Collins, Tathra received their joint award from deputy mayor Russell Fitzpatrick at the Senior Citizens Week Golden Gig lunch on Thursday, March 20 hosted by council at the Sapphire Club in Merimbula.

Cr Fitzpatrick said both Mr McGrath and Mr Collins had made enormous contributions to the Bega Valley Shire community - Mr McGrath in the Surf Life Saving movement and Mr Collins mainly in the health sector.

Cr Fitzpatrick said ‘Jim’ McGrath had been a dedicated stalwart of the Surf Lifesaving Clubs throughout the shire for the past 50 years.

“His mechanical knowledge has always been a great asset to the clubs and his skill and experience has been crucial in averting incidents or preventing ongoing problems with equipment.

“Mr McGrath has excelled with young nippers in the Pambula Surf Club, teaching them to swim and be surf-savvy as they went on to obtain their bronze medallions and grow into the senior members of the club.

“He has taught hundreds of young people about their role and responsibility when being a boat crew member, handling rubber ducks and keeping all equipment in good order.

“Jim is a role model to people both young and old. By his actions he has shown what it means to be a contributor to his community,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.

In accepting the award Mr McGrath spoke of his involvement with both APEX and Surf Livesaving.

He said that if it had not been for APEX there would be no Bar Beach in Merimbula. APEX, he said worked on the roads and prepared the area.

Mr McGrath talked about two particular incidents, one of which was when he pulled five children out of a rip. “Five children and not a parent in sight and we were there for half an hour before any parents came,” he said.

He went to speak about saving Don Hay from a shark. Mr Hay was in the water and Mr McGrath was in the duck when he spotted a fin “coming straight at Don”.

He said: “I moved the duck between the shark and Don and without Don Hay you wouldn’t have had Pambula Surf Life Saving Club.”

Cr Fitzpatrick said Allen Collins had arrived in the shire in 2003 and immediately hit the ground running as an active community advocate and worker.

“In fact, the week after his arrival he joined the Bega Combined Probus Club and he is still the President today.

“He has also served in various capacities on numerous committees, including the Bega Valley Health Advisory Council; the community lobby group, Operation New Hospital; and, after undergoing care training, he visits the Bega District Hospital with the pastoral care and trauma care teams of volunteers.”

Mayor Bill Taylor said Mr Collins was particularly proud to have been the only community member on the Progress Planning Team for the new South East Regional Hospital.

Cr Fitzpatrick said Mr Collins is also a religious man who has served his Church as a warden and parish councillor of Saint John’s Anglican Church.

 “Mr Collins also has an interest in maintaining our history which prompted him to join the committee of the Pig and Whistle Fleet museum that records the days when Tathra Wharf was a busy hub of industry in the shire.”

Some 300 people were at the Golden Gig for the Senior of the Year announcement which was followed by lunch and entertainment.

The entertainment was provided by Pambula Public School Choir, Footprint Theatre, the Eden Singers, Michael Menager and well-known local Tura Beach jazz musicians, Margie and Tony Fullerton with Colleen Spillane with ABC identity Jen Hunt as compere.

Bega High School Year 11 students of Community and Family Studies and Food and Beverage were the food servers at the event.

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