It's the team effort that was the real winner of the prestigious TransGrid Leadership Award on Friday night, says John Southon.
The Trundle Central School principal attended the 2019 Regional Achievement and Community Awards on November 8 at the Fairmont Resort & Spa Blue Mountains.
With hundreds of nominations and before room of 250 guests from across NSW and the ACT, John was announced the winner of the award from a strong field of community contributors.
His selfless dedication to his community and coordination of multiple individuals and agencies to deliver sustained drought relief to the Trundle community, thanks to appearances on international and national media - is what earned John a nomination.
Under his leadership, students have been empowered to help their families in times of significant rural need, with their mental health also improving.
But John said the award wasn't recognition for his leadership but rather that of his staff, particularly those who work in the front office at Trundle Central.
"The recognition is for the team effort," he said.
"I was surprised we won but I'm not surprised that we deserve the recognition.
"I heard them read out the profiles of the other nominees and I thought 'I've got no chance here'," he laughed.
In the last 12 months, Trundle Central has secured 500 food and toiletry packages and injected thousands of dollars into the Trundle economy.
The school is now preparing for its Christmas food and present drive, with Christmas presents on the way for the kids, John said.
"We're not calling it drought relief anymore, we're calling it community relief," he said.
"We're having a whole-school Christmas party because the school is an oasis for the kids.
"We've spent $16,000 on watering our grass to keep it green because it's the only green thing they'll see all day.
"It's all about mental health, that's the whole of it. Our kids need to feel wanted and that they're not a burden on their parents."
The school will also be putting $44,000 worth of vouchers into the hands of farmers before Christmas, thanks to three panel beaters from Sydney.
The panel beaters heard John talk about his cause on the radio and called him to tell him they will be donating $10,000 each.
The next day the money arrived in their account.
The funds bring the school's total to $90,000 that's gone into the Trundle economy.
"That's not bad for a school of 100 kids," John said.
"We're also doing pamper packs for women.
"It's about getting the positive narrative out there and people will give. We have an amazing country and 100 per cent of it stays local."
And today, John said they were doing the opposite.
They were packing boxes of clothes and shoes, particularly for children, to donate to bushfire victims.
"We're very aware of what's happening up north and we've received amazing donations," John said, referring to returning the favour.
"Some people have lost everything.
"Our local media is the driving force, they help us spread our message.
"[If they weren't around] how are we going to do it?
"And it's not just the drought, it's everything.
"The bush is battling, and I said this in my speech, politicians don't understand the culture of the country. We can't just pack up and go.
"They really need to think outside the box, especially with employment."
There were eight categories in the 2019 Regional Achievement and Community Awards, with Parkes Shire Food Service Inc being nominated for a Prime Super Employer Excellence in Aged Care Award.
Wally Biles accepted the nominee award on behalf of Parkes Shire Food Service from Crown Lands Commissioner Richard Bush, who represented Melinda Pavey, Minister for Water, Property and Housing and patron of the awards.
Parkes Shire Food Service has delivered meals to the elderly and disabled for 56 years, providing independence within their own homes.
Meanwhile the Cowra Showground, Racecourse and Paceway Trust won the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment Crown Land Manager Excellence Award.
Award winners each received either $2000 from Awards Australia or air time packages on PRIME7 and a magnificent trophy.
The awards night was the culmination of a tremendously successful year with hundreds of nominations received from across regional NSW and the ACT.
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