Over the next 10 days we will profile the three remaining finalists in the Northern Advocate's People's Choice Award for community sport Good Sorts. From March 1, you will be able to vote for your favourite and the winner will be announced at the Northland Sports Awards on March 15. Today, we speak to Sharon Carroll, a woman whose commitment to helping others achieve their dreams is second to none.
Not many could say they have a longer volunteering CV than Waipū's Sharon Carroll.
In fact, in the last five years, Carroll has either organised, aided or contributed to more volunteer sporting programmes and initiatives than most people have in their entire lives.
Carroll's extensive volunteering record includes working for organisations like Swimming Northland as meet director and events committee member, Bream Bay swim club, Bream Bay College, Waipū Lions Club as treasurer, as well as organising countless fun runs, walks, cycle events and fundraisers to help her local community.
In the process, she won the Service to Sport award at the Bream Bay Sports Awards last year as well as the Waipū Everyday Hero award for contribution to the community. If that wasn't enough, as of January, Carroll had begun a new job at Parafed Northland with a goal to encourage all Northlanders to have a more active lifestyle.
It was her continued support of Northland's sporting community which saw her chosen as a finalist for the Northern Advocate's community sport "Good Sort" award.
Now you may think this number of commitments would run any person ragged, but Carroll didn't let fatigue get in the way of helping her community.
"I am definitely busy but if you love what you do, it never seems like a job," she said.
"I love helping the community. The payback you get far outweighs any work that you do so I feel very lucky and privileged for the people I work with."
Carroll moved with her family from Auckland 11 years ago which she credited as a key point in her volunteering history.
"Moving to a smaller community, you've got a lot more opportunities to get in with people and make a difference. It's a great community like that."
The proof of Carroll's impact was in the numbers. She has raised thousands of dollars in funding for the Bream Bay swim club, she initiated the Waipū Lions Club 10-10-10 fun run which donated all proceeds to the New Zealand Child Mobility Foundation and also created a community Christmas breakfast last year which drew in 70 people who called for Carroll to host it again this year.
Now, in her role at Parafed Northland, Carroll was excited to hit the ground running in a role she knew she could be effective in.
"When I read the brief for the job, it was like I'd written it myself. It's a dream job to be helping in the community and to look at expanding it and integrating sport with that.
"We are definitely finding people in our community who have a physical disability but it's about connecting with them and making sure they can do the sports they want to do."
While she was surprised by her most recent award nomination, Carroll said the recognition was simply an added bonus which helped for future events.
"If it means our position in Parafed will be noticed more because of it then that's great.
"I'm very lucky that I've made a lot of contacts who I can go to and say I want to run an event. It's a great network not just for me but others as well."
Although getting people with physical disabilities active was a prime focus for Carroll, there was a range of people she wanted to encourage to venture out of their comfort zone.
"Everybody has their own barriers and obstacles, not just people with disabilities so I think if you can make something that is local to them then they more likely to do it and it's got to be fun."
A goal of Carroll's was to cultivate a sense of belonging in local communities so people felt comfortable interacting and participating in community activities which would benefit their physical and mental wellbeing.
To achieve this, Carroll said, was a personal mission as she hoped to be a good role model for her two daughters and teach them good values.
"They've grown up just knowing this is what you do, helping the community and you get stuck in.
"That's what I would like them to be, good people in their lives and if they can do that, I've done pretty well."
When asked how other people could be more involved in their communities, Carroll said many don't believe they can turn their ideas into a reality, but it was easier than it looked.
"Some people think about doing something but they don't know if they can do it, but I always say we can do it and then we just do it, we make it happen."
To find out more about upcoming Parafed events visit its website. Voting for the award opens on Friday, March 1, with the winner being announced at the Northland Sports Awards on March 15.