It was a night of many smiles, congratulations, and heart-warming stories at the TECT Community Awards.
About 350 people from across the community came together on Thursday night to celebrate the volunteers and community groups that make the region a great place to live.
Finalists were announced late last year, with videos about their work showcased online over the past six weeks.
Winners were announced at the event with applause erupting from Baycourt Community & Arts Centre throughout the evening.
Ōropi School principal Andrew King said winning both the Sustainable Future and People's Choice Award was "an amazing surprise".
"It is really affirming of the Garden to Table programme and what it means – it's obviously valued highly in the community."
Garden to Table Trust regional coordinator for the Bay of Plenty Andrea Green said they were incredibly proud of Ōropi School.
"They are one of almost 20 schools across the Bay of Plenty running the Garden to Table programme. They were our first, and they are a model school.
"We are so proud of the sustainable practices they use and the inspiring programme they are running. It inspires not only the children learning how to grow, harvest, prepare and share, but they take that home, inspiring their parents, friends and whānau too. We are just thrilled."
Volunteer of the Year Award winner Sibylle Steppat is well-known in the Merivale community for her work, whether running residents' meetings, weekly walking groups, or fitness classes.
She came away from the event buzzing with excitement not just for the win, but for the spotlight shone on her neighbourhood.
"When I was watching the awards videos, the main thing for me was that Merivale was mentioned in such an event," she said.
"That for me was the main goal, I never expected to be called out as a winner. I'm really, really happy to be announced as a winner and to showcase the community I love – it's a privilege for me to live there."
The Bay of Plenty Youth Development Trust's Craig Nees said working with at-risk youth through their Tauranga Boxing Academy boxing and mentoring programmes was "incredibly rewarding".
"We do what we do because we can see the change we are having in young people's lives.
"There is no greater reward than seeing the look of excitement and of optimism in young people that before coming into contact with our programmes, they just don't have.
"I feel really humbled and excited to see this award recognise the whole team, their passion and drive to make this happen – it's a collective effort. To receive an award like this is just amazing."
The TECT Community Awards judging panel was made up of community representatives Allison Stewart, Carlo Ellis and Paul Geoghegan.
Ellis said reviewing the list of nominees and selecting the finalists and winners was a difficult task, but one that he found very humbling.
"We are incredibly lucky to have so many selfless volunteers and community groups working to fill our region's needs.
"It's not an easy task, but it's one that requires a lot of dedication, innovation, and pure good-heartedness. We saw so much of that last night, not just on stage but throughout the room.
"It has been truly humbling and inspiring to get a peek into the lives and work of all the nominees through the judging process. We thank them for the contribution they make to our community, and congratulate all the finalists and winners. He mihi kauana, he mihi humarie ki a ratou katoa."
Videos on each winner will be released on the TECT Facebook page starting next week. Make sure to like the TECT Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/TECTNZ.
The winners of the 2021 TECT Community Awards are:
• Event Excellence Award: A Night Before Christmas
• Sustainable Future Award: Ōropi School – Garden to Table
• Diversity and Inclusion Award: Mockingbird Charitable Trust
• Rising Star Award: Bay of Plenty Youth Development Trust
• Youth Spirit Award: Courtney Bignell
• Volunteer of the Year Award: Sibylle Steppat
• People's Choice Award: Oropi School – Garden to Table
• Lifetime Service Award: Lou Rigg