Volunteer a true community gem

Humbled: Les Harvey won the Local Hero of the Year award at Wollondilly Council's Australia Day celebrations. Picture: Ashleigh Tullis
Humbled: Les Harvey won the Local Hero of the Year award at Wollondilly Council's Australia Day celebrations. Picture: Ashleigh Tullis

There are some locals that embody the heart and soul of a community.

Les Harvey is one those residents.

His volunteer work, his fundraising efforts and his kind spirit make the Thirlmere resident a true gem in the community.

Mr Harvey was recognised for his community spirit when he won the shire’s Local Hero of the Year Australia Day award this year.

He said he was honoured and humbled to receive such a distinguished award.

“My proudest achievement would be my Christmas lights and how much money my family and I raised for the Children’s Hospital’s Cystic Fibrosis clinic at Westmead,” he said. “In five years we raised $132,000.

“We started putting up the lights a few years before our grandson was born. He was born with cystic fibrosis and we thought the lights would be a great way to fundraise.

“It took me six weeks to put up the display. People travelled from inside Wollondilly, Camden, Campbelltown and Wollongong. One year we raised $32,000 in a one-month period. 

“When people asked how we raised that much, I used to tell them that they ‘lived in the wrong shire because we have one of the best communities’.”

Mr Harvey said he loved seeing the joy on the kids’ faces.

“Santa used to come,” he said. “I had a Sydney theme, a ten-metre high Santa and thousands of lights.”

Mr Harvey used to have raffles, silent auctions, sausage sizzles and more to raise money.

He won Wollondilly Council’s Christmas Lights Competition several times and now he judges the competition.

Mr Harvey was also a foundation worker at Telopea Park in Buxton and at 15-years-old he became a member of the Buxton Rural Fire Service and then became a member of the Thirlmere RFS brigade.

“I used to mark the soccer and netball courts at Thirlmere sportsground too,” he said. “I coached soccer for five years. I’m also an associate member of the Picton-Thirlmere-Bargo Returned Service League sub-branch.”

The retired Tahmoor mine worker said the best thing about the shire was the people who lived in it.

“You can go anywhere in the shire and talk to anyone,” Mr Harvey said. “They are down-to-earth, caring and generous people.”