Editorial: Community heroes

By Scott Inglis

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We have some special people in our community.

They give rather than take. They help others and go beyond the call of duty as decent members of the community. And they raise money to benefit others rather than themselves.

They are selfless. They put others first. They are inspirational.

One such person is Peter Blackwell.

Mr Blackwell, veteran policeman, top fundraiser and all-round good bloke, has been named the Bay of Plenty Times Person of the Year 2011.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

We launched our search for the Person of the Year on November 19, calling for nominations from readers. Over the following few weeks, we received nominations, created a short-list of five nominees and published their profiles in the paper and on our website bayofplentytimes.co.nz.

We then asked readers to email us who they thought deserved the title. This week, Tauranga MP Simon Bridges and Mayor Stuart Crosby met myself, deputy editor Rachael Arthur and senior writer Ellen Irvine to assess each nomination and choose a winner.

It was a tough session. We considered a number of factors in our decision making, such as impact across the community, and took into account the email votes.

We spent time debating each nominee and reached a consensus.

I invited Mr Blackwell in for a presentation ceremony on Thursday and I had the pleasure of meeting him, his wife and family, and Graeme Smith, who with wife Leona nominated their good friend.

Before meeting Mr Blackwell, I had some preconceptions of what he'd be like. He is a well-known detective sergeant and I was prepared to meet a hardened cop with a tough exterior. And, as is often the case with community heroes, he was initially uncomfortable with the publicity.

But what I found was a super guy not afraid to show he was human and really cared for people around him. I caught a glimpse of a genuine family man who is a role model for his children and the police. We chose Mr Blackwell for this honour because of the huge amount of work he has done in leading the annual Tauranga Police CIB Charity Auction.

It has raised a whopping $1.25 million since 1995 - including a record $250,000 this year. A large number of organisations have benefited. This year, it was Tauranga Riding for the Disabled and ImpacTauranga.

He has also done a huge amount of other work in the community and demonstrated he goes beyond what is required when it comes to his police work.

I remember reading in our paper how Mr Blackwell asked Dev Sangha, whose wife and daughter were murdered in Tauranga last year, to join his own family to celebrate last Christmas Day. What a gesture.

Mr Blackwell talks passionately about his work in helping others. He also talks of the huge number of people who work with him to help make the Western Bay a better place.

Thursday's ceremony surpassed our expectations. I came away from it knowing I had met a true community hero.

We consider Bay of Plenty Times Person of the Year to be a premier honour that deserves the prominence and prestige we have given it.

But all the nominees deserve our praise and recognition.

They are: Allison Stewart, top community events facilitator and fundraiser; Brian Wright, who has contributed 50 years of fantastic community service through Bethlehem Te Puna Lions Club; Peter Ombler, kiwifruit growers leader, who has played a pivotal role in the Psa crisis; and Ray Thomas, who instead of putting his feet up at 75 has spent three years volunteering his handyman services at Tauranga Riding for the Disabled. I salute them all. They are outstanding people.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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