When Benjamin Hamill is not helping at the beach as a lifesaver, he is at Lifeline working as telephone crisis supporter or fulfilling duties as a UOW student representative.
The 20-year-old psychology student has just been named Illawarra Volunteer of the Year in recognition of time spent as a patrolling member at Sandon Point SLSC, a patrol captain and probationary trainer at Scarborough Wombarra SLSC and a telephone crisis supporter and student mentor at Lifeline South Coast.
He is also the undergraduate student representative on the UOW Education Committee, and a representative and deputy chair of the Student Advisory Council.
Mr Hamill was one of four Illawarra winners named on Friday as part of the NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards are run by The Centre for Volunteering.
He said he didn't do any of it for recognition and hopes his story encourages others to help when and where they can.
"It came as a surprise to be recognised as Illawarra Volunteer of the Year," he said.
"I think what I do comes from my upbringing. It has always been instilled in me to help other people - both my parents have a background in volunteering.
"With surf life saving I was a Nipper from an early age and grew up in that environment. I like making sure the beach is safe and I enjoy upskilling younger members as well to encourage them to stay in surf life saving."
Mr Hamill was drawn to helping Lifeline because he recognised the growing need to help the community address mental health following the impact of COVID-19 and devastating bushfires.
Senior Volunteer of the Year Lynette Phoenix, of Coniston, was recognised for visiting residents at IRT William Beach Gardens every week prior to lockdown.
Mrs Phoenix said she started doing it 12 years ago after her mother Isabelle Phoenix died a year earlier. She had been her carer.
"When my mum passed away I had a lot of time on my hands so my daughter asked me if I would like to volunteer," she said.
"I went out there and did fingernails and craft and I would take some people shopping. I got very involved with the ladies out there and have loved every minute of it."
Mrs Phoenix said she is missing the visits as much as the residents during lockdown but still calls them regularly to check they are okay.
"As soon as lockdown is over and it is safe to visit again I will be going back," she said.
Adult Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Phillipa Drewett who has volunteered for Burrawang Rural Fire Service Brigade for 11 years.
As president she has been busy building membership so the RFS can continue to support the local community. And as the brigade's training officer she delivered training for 10 new members after the Black Summer fires.
She also helps Burrawang residents prepare for emergencies and is a major driver of local fundraising activities.
Volunteer Team of the Year was Kind Hearts Illawarra who's members turn hundreds of kilos of food that would normally go to landfill into hampers for individuals and families in need in the Shellharbour and Wollongong area.
The team at Albion Park is totally run by volunteers and provides hot meals, fresh food hampers, drinks, clothing hygiene packs, blankets, jackets and their time to listen.
Kind Hearts Illawarra has been on the frontline during COVID-19 supporting people dealing with homelessness, food insecurity, abandonment and isolation issues.
The NSW State of Volunteering Report recently found that 4.9 million volunteers in NSW contributed 1.5 billion hours to their communities in the past year which equates to $127 billion in social and economic benefits.
The Centre for Volunteering chief executive Gemma Rygate said the last 12 months have been tough for everyone but volunteers have kept digging deep to support their local communities.
"In many cases they've had to find totally new ways of volunteering through the pandemic, but they've never given up, they've worked around it and shown enormous resilience," she said.