This year was a tough ask to name one winner of the Local Hero award, the Eurobodalla Shire Council says.
Instead, two shire residents were selected to represent a community full of heroes - Mathew Hatcher and Anthony Bellete.
The council said countless Eurobodallans contributed time and energy to all our benefit in a tumultuous year of drought, fire, flood and pandemic lockdown.
There were an unrivalled field of entrants in this year's nominations for the shire's Local Hero award.
Mathew Hatcher has been an advocate for local business and tourism after he decided to call the Eurobodalla home six years ago.
The past Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Committee member has also been involved with Sculpture on Clyde, the Mackay Park Sunset Committee, Cultivate Space, The Man Walk, and the Tomakin Community Association.
Building on his previous experience of bushfire recovery following the 2018 Tathra fires, January 2020 saw Mr Hatcher quickly set up the South Coast Donations Logistic Team to house and distribute the enormous amount of bushfire recovery donations and get them to those in need, from Batemans Bay to the Victorian border.
Mr Hatcher was not expecting a Local Hero award.
"I didn't even know there was an award," he laughed.
He was humbled, but felt the award belonged to his team and the broader community.
"I don't want to take it [the award] on as my own, I started the group and coordinated it but couldn't have done it on my own," he said.
"There's so many cogs to make it work - not just the team but businesses, and people in community who have all played a role."
He felt proud to be nominated: "Especially this year, with the craziness."
"I am proud to see what we are doing is making an impression and a difference," Mr Hatcher said.
Throughout the bushfire crisis and during the recovery, Mr Hatcher said his team saw "the worst and the best".
"There were stories that don't make it in the public domain and none of us are trained counsellors," he said.
"There's no doubt in my mind that we have saved lives.
"It's pretty tough - when people say they would have committed suicide if we hadn't stepped in."
From Alabama in the US, Mr Hatcher moved to Australia in 2002. He built connections over the years which he said "comes in handy to make things happen quickly".
He lives in Tomakin with his wife and two young children. He fell in love with the seaside village and felt he must give back.
"I feel I owe a lot to Australia, for allowing me to live here, I have always wanted to do my bit," he said.
He appreciated the sense of community, family and the "slower way of life".
Batemans Bay Surf Lifesaving Club member Anthony Bellette was also not expecting the Local Hero award.
Since volunteering at the surf club for the past 12 years, Mr Bellete has been a role model for younger lifesavers and a smoother of ways who ensures all members enjoy their involvement in the club.
During the bushfire emergency, the 28-year-old stepped up as a community leader at the impromptu evacuation centre at the club headquarters in Malua Bay; working with other volunteers to keep 1500 people safe as the bushfire raged around.
After the fires passed, Mr Bellete kept surf club doors open with the support of fellow members. It was turned into a community hub throughout the bushfire recovery.
Mr Bellete felt honoured to receive the award but said it was difficult to accept.
"It was really special to be nominated," he said.
"But the recognition is really hard to chew at the moment considering there were so many amazing volunteers who spent their summer fighting the fires."
Mr Bellete was thankful of his fellow members and their support during the bushfire emergency.
"There were so many amazing people working alongside me, I would like to share the award with all those people who were there at the surf club helping out the whole time.
"I thank all of those people for putting the time in - not one person could have done the effort."
Mr Bellete is passionate about helping others. He said his efforts are made easy when surrounded by like-minded people.
"I always have such a big group of people around me interested in the same thing - that's helping people, it makes it a lot easier when you're not on your own," he said.
During the surf club's community hub transformation, Mr Bellete said people showed interest in volunteering next season.
"People have wanted to join as social members, which gives us good hope next season with numbers," he said.
Due to pandemic restrictions there will be no presentation ceremony. For more information about the 2020 Eurobodalla Local Hero Award, including the list of nominees, CLICK HERE.
Photo: Anthony Bellette is the joint winner of Eurobodalla's 2020 Local Hero award.