Ninety-year-old Norma McCarthy has been awarded the Kiwibank Local Hero medal for her 40 years of volunteer work with the blind.

Mrs McCarthy received the award at Palmerston North on Thursday night, however the nonagenarian was originally reluctant when nominated.

"I said I don't want it."

"There's a lot of people that do more than I do, but you've got to get somebody to nominate you."

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She spends her days teaching crafts at the Whanganui Blind Centre and thinks she receives as much enjoyment as those she teaches.

"I enjoy craft myself, I like the people, I get as much pleasure as them."

"They come along and say no I can't do that, but eventually they find something they can do and they're so thrilled," she said.

The 90 year-old has had to scale back her duties in recent years.

"I used to pick up people from their home and take them to the blind centre but I don't do that anymore."

"A lady I used to pick up was 100 so I felt quite young," she said.

Her son who attended the award says his mother has always had a humble streak.

"She wouldn't want the attention at all."

He says she began her work after her husband died in 1969.

"She had a widows benefit, and she wanted to put something back in for what she was getting."

She would sometimes take work home with her.

"I remember her making books for blind children, she would put things in the books that they could feel rather then see," he said.

Mrs McCarthy was one of at least five Whanganui award winners, as part of the annual New Zealander of the Year award.