Under the Stars has taken top honours at Tauranga's biggest celebration of volunteers - the Trustpower Community Awards.
The community organisation, which helps advocate for and feed homeless people in Tauranga, shares its celebration with volunteers from Maketu Coastguard, which was crowned Supreme Winner of the Western Bay of Plenty section of the awards.
The awards were held at Classic Flyers Museum last night, where the winners were named.
Trustpower community and communications adviser Abbie Siely said Under the Stars tackled "the challenging, emotional and often undiscussed issue of homelessness head-on, offering practical assistance paired with kindness and compassion to people who have found themselves in a situation many of us couldn't imagine".
Every Saturday night volunteers collect donated food and put together a hot meal. Guests are offered showers – sometimes their only one for the week. They receive fresh drinking water to take away, socks, toiletries and sleeping bags.
"Under the Stars offers our homeless community a break from the elements and from the isolation that often accompanies life outside society's norms. The group works to help our homeless get back on their feet, working through drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes, sourcing identification documents, and reconnecting people with family."
In May, Under the Stars was recognised for its work and given a $2000 koha by the Ministry of Māori Development.
Liz Kite, who runs Under the Stars, said at the time: "It's just amazing because we all work so hard."
Siely said Maketu Coastguard stood out to the judges for devoting "a considerable amount of time and energy to fundraising for a new emergency rescue boat".
"The achievement is particularly noteworthy because it was accomplished in addition to the group's regular work educating the community about water safety and providing support services."
Siely said the Coastguard's impact was felt far from the town because it engaged with the community and supported events, including a 150 waka paddle from Maketū to Mount Maunganui in difficult conditions and helping at Rotorua lakes.
Coastguard volunteer Henry Samson juggles being a husband, a dad to two daughters, and a businessman after joining the Maketu Coastguard about 10 years ago with a friend he used to go fishing with.
He said earlier this year he loved the buzz he got from helping people on the water.
"It definitely gets the adrenaline going when you know someone could have potentially drowned if you were not there and you have saved them. That is why we do it for those rescues. It is quite rewarding."
Tauranga's Teri Dawson and Ashleigh Ngow were named winners of the Youth Community Spirit Award for each district.
As Supreme Award winners, Under the Stars and the Maketu Coastguard received a framed certificate, a trophy, and $2000 prize money.
The group will go on to represent Western Bay of Plenty at the 2018 Trustpower National Community Awards, when volunteers from 26 regions from around New Zealand gather in Tauranga in March.
Youth Community Spirit
Finalist – Flynn Harris
Finalist – Jessica Treanor
Winner Tauranga – Teri Dawson
Winner Western Bay of Plenty – Ashleigh Ngow
Trustpower Community Awards - finalists
Canine Friends Pet Therapy Bay of Plenty
Youth Search and Rescue Trust Tauranga
Te Puke Toy Library Inc
Maketu Ongatoro Wetland Society Inc
Trustpower Community Awards Recipients
Papamoa Surf Life Saving Club
Boomerang Bags Tauranga
Tauranga Volunteer Coastguard
Katikati Maori Wardens Charitable Trust
Tauranga Village Radio Museum
Aongatete Outdoor Education Centre
Supreme Winner – Tauranga
Under the Stars
Supreme Winner – Western Bay of Plenty
Maketu Volunteer Coastguard