Tauranga guide dog puppy walker Luci Carter has been awarded Western Bay of Plenty Volunteer of the Year.
Mrs Carter, who became a puppy walker in 1999, is also a breeding stock guardian, volunteer co-ordinator and member of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind's Tauranga Community Committee.
Speaking at schools, supporting fundraising efforts and driving members to places they need to go are also on her volunteering resume.
Her "can-do" attitude and helpfulness have been a "tremendous asset" to foundation members and staff in the area, her nomination said.
"I wonder - gosh is that really me?" a surprised Mrs Carter said.
Mrs Carter currently has four dogs in her care - 10-week-old puppy Timor, which is boarding with her for a month, golden retriever Fay, 2, which is about to have its first litter of puppies, 10-year-old Edison, a retired stud dog and Ele, 10, a retired racing greyhound.
"I've always loved dogs ... we all volunteer for different causes because that is our interest. Mine happens to be dogs, which is why I came into it," she said.
The inaugural awards, by Volunteer Western Bay of Plenty, were planned to coincide with Volunteer Awareness Week.
"We want to hail and thank and applaud the volunteers in our community who do an outstanding job," volunteer co-ordinator Murray Clayton said.
The number of people volunteering in Tauranga had increased by nearly half over the past year, he said.
Currently Volunteer WBOP has 1200 volunteers on its books, compared to 812 at the same time last year.
The number of volunteering positions has also risen from 39 to 112, and the number of organisations seeking volunteers from 58 to 71.
Mr Clayton attributed the increase to raised awareness of the organisation and the Rena disaster.
"People have woken up to the effects volunteering can have following Rena," he said.
"It has raised the profile of it."
Runner-up for Western Bay of Plenty Volunteer of the Year 2012 was Rob Miller, who was nominated by Waipuna Hospice.
Mr Miller has volunteered at the hospice for the past four-and-a-half years, visiting and supporting patients and their families.
"He is a dedicated, compassionate, versatile and extremely reliable person who has the unique ability to interact with a wide variety of people. Nothing is too difficult for Rob," his nomination stated.
Highly commended was Ivan Sullivan, nominated by IHC, for his "passion, commitment, positive attitude and dependability".
Youth Volunteer of the Year was Rafael Ortiz, a volunteer at the YMCA's holiday programme.
Rafael's relationship with the YMCA began over two years ago when he attended the organisation's after school care programme.
Described by the YMCA as a "hard-working, driven and cheerful young man", Rafael has given up hundreds of hours of his free time to volunteer.
Runner-up Youth Volunteer of the Year was Lauren van Arendock, nominated by Habitat for Humanity.
A full-time student, who works part-time and runs marathons for charity, she makes sure she always has time for other people, her nomination said.
Commended was Toni-Marie Wickham, nominated by Waipuna Hospice.
Western Bay of Plenty Volunteer of the Year Awards 2012
Youth Volunteer of the Year 2012 - Rafael Ortiz - YMCA Tauranga
Runner-up - Lauren van Arendonk - ReStore for Habitat for Humanity
Commended - Toni-Marie Wickham - Waipuna Hospice
Volunteer of the Year 2012 - Luci Carter - RNZFB
Runner-up - Rob Miller - Waipuna Hospice
Highly Commended - Ivan Sullivan - IHC
Commended - Maureen Keen (Waikato/BOP Cancer Society), Rae Jamieson (Age Concern), Matthew Baxter (Canteen), John Graham (YMCA), Rachel Hohneck (ReStore for Habitat for Humanity), Jo Edlin (Budget Advisory Service), Elizabeth Murphy (Girl Guiding NZ), Sandy Coley (Plunket), Shelly Kurz (VWBOP), Kerry Boag (VWBOP).