"They're like family to me," said Robin Deaves of Blaxlands Ridge when describing the "ladies" she brings together for social gatherings.
She is a volunteer with Parramatta Council and this week her work was recognised for enduring not only for 16 years but through a tough year for our elderly residents.
Mrs Deaves, 77, a widow, was named Senior Volunteer of the Year at the regional North West Sydney NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards, run by the Centre of Volunteering, for her fantastic work keeping older people connected in the community.
She runs single-handedly the council's Care Volunteer Team that lessens the sting of social isolation for around 15 senior residents of the Merrylands and Guildford regions.
Before the COVID lockdown, Mrs Deaves was driving 50 kilometres a month - picking up residents from their homes - to facilitate group activities at various clubs in the Parramatta area.
She won the award for demonstrating outstanding leadership skills and displaying genuine compassion, respect and understanding of the vulnerable population she works with.
Mrs Deaves said the ladies had become her friends and she was calling each of them weekly - chatting with some of them for upwards of an hour - since COVID gripped Sydney.
"They look forward to my phone calls," she said. "I get a lot out of the work I do. They're just like family to me now and I join in with them."
One of the twice-monthly outings the group used to look forward to was Morning Melodies at Merrylands Bowling Club. They also attended the Merrylands RSL Club and had morning tea.
"We'd get the ladies tea and coffee and put it in front of them with a scone. We used to have artists come and entertain them for over an hour, singing, telling jokes, they used to love it and I did too," Mrs Deaves said.
"Hopefully we'll get back to it soon."
The Centre for Volunteering CEO, Gemma Rygate, said volunteers had continued to "dig deep" to support their communities during the past 12 months.
"In many cases they've had to find totally new ways of volunteering through the pandemic, but they've never given up, they've worked around it and shown enormous resilience," Ms Rygate said.
NSW Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services, Alister Henskens, said: "Volunteers are everyday people who do amazing things for their community, and I am inspired by them devoting their precious time and energy to benefit others."