When Jessica Whittaker is not helping those in need during her day-job as a paramedic, she is trying to make the environment healthier.
Ms Whittaker, who lives in Port Kembla, is one of 28 finalists of the Rotary Districts of NSW Emergency Services Community Awards.
She was nominated by a community member because of her volunteer environmental work in Port Kembla.
Ms Whittaker runs Plastic Wise Port Kembla and has also been instrumental in getting more trees planted, as well as upgrading the public school playground and organising a community grocer.
"Plastic Wise is a way to draw attention to the problems and organise some of the solutions," Ms Whittaker said.
"We have been involved in beach clean ups and pollution incidents such as the waffle pods disaster and coal sludge in Figtree Creek.
"We use the group to communicate what is happening and raise awareness about the major pollution incidents, which are going almost unpunished or unrecognised by the authorities."
Last year strong winds blew polystyrene waffle pods used in housing construction across new estates in West Dapto and into local dams and waterways.
"As a paramedic, I was driving past it most shifts and was scratching my head wondering how the pollution had not been cleaned up yet as it had been three weeks," Ms Whittaker said.
"We suggested to do a clean up with volunteers from volunteer groups and we all worked towards a common goal."
Ms Whittaker, who has been a paramedic for 11 years, said her passion for the environment started in childhood when going for bushwalks or to the beach.
"I have always loved the outdoors and I want to see the environment stay the way it was when I was a child," she said. "It was a lot cleaner and less polluted."
Her passion for volunteering comes from her work as a paramedic.
"I see a lot of lonely, sad cases, where people are cut off from the community and a lot of their health problems play into that disconnect," Ms Whittaker said.
"I volunteer because I believe if we have strong communities and a healthy environment that can help people's health and well being, and hopefully people will appreciate having a healthy planet and will feel more connected to each other.
"No one who volunteers does it to get an award. You do it for the greater good. I'm humbled that someone noticed and thought I should be nominated."
Along with Plastic Wise, Ms Whittaker works with Our Community Project, the community centre in Port Kembla, and together they have planted 300 trees in the suburb.
"We worked with council and bushcare groups and I personally went door knocking asking if people will have a tree on their verge," she said.
"We also recently set up the Port Grocer, which is a non-profit grocer providing bulk food with less packaging.
"With the bushcare group, we planted 1200 plants in King George Oval."
Ms Whittaker has also worked with the Parents and Citizens group at Port Kembla Public School to carry out playground upgrades and organised a whale watching garden to be built, where kids can sit on sandstone blocks surrounded by native plants and watch the ocean.
She has also been involved in the FOGO campaign and bike campaigns with Wollongong council.
Winners for each emergency service, plus two special overall winners, and the young volunteer will be announced at an Awards presentation on October 30.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.